Kinderculture: The Corporate Construction of Childhood.

Author:Lanclos, Donna M.
Position:Book review

Kinderculture: The Corporate Construction of Childhood. Edited by Shirley R. Steinberg and Joe L. Kincheloe. (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1998. Pp. xi + 270)

Shirley R. Steinberg and Joe L. Kincheloe have brought together a strong collection of essays detailing the ways in which "kinderculture," that is, popular culture materials created by corporate America for consumption by children, impact the everyday lives of kids. Fundamental to the project of this book is the need to understand kinderculture, to take it and its impact on society seriously, and the corresponding desire to use that understanding to rethink childhood education at many different sites of cultural pedagogy. The authors, who are sociology, education, and cultural studies scholars, make this collection even stronger by addressing, not just the top-down forces of kinderculture, but also the complex set of social and cultural interactions with that culture, engaged in by children and adults.

In their introduction, the editors note that:

"[s]uch an effort [as this book] falls under the umbrella term cultural pedagogy, which refers to the idea that education takes place in a variety of social sites including but not limited to schooling. Pedagogical sites are those places where power is organized and deployed, including libraries, TV, movies, newspapers, magazines, toys, advertisements, video games, books, sports, and so on. Our work as education scholars, we believe, demands that we examine both in-school and cultural pedagogy if we are to make sense of the educational process in the late twentieth century (3-4)."

Kinderculture is made not by children, but for children. Notions of just what a child is, and what an ideal childhood should be, are embedded in the products and processes of kinderculture. The distinction between kinderculture and children's culture is structurally and conceptually similar to that made by Peter and Iona Opie in differentiating nursery rhymes from children's rhymes (Lore and Language of Schoolchildren, Oxford University Press, 1967, 1). The former are created and passed on by adults for children, while the latter are the products of kids' interactions with one another, often subversive in their take on the adult world that surrounds them. In Kinderculture the authors note the presence of children's culture within kinderculture, pointing out that corporations can and do use antithetical aspects of kids' play as a part of their marketing strategies...

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