This introductory chapter provides a brief history of the use of children in evaluating moral and cultural problems. The rhetorical use of children as a means of interrogating cultural norms has a history that extends back to classical and biblical times. Most cultural historians agree that the origin of the essentially modern use of the figure of the child lies in John Locke's Some Thoughts Concerning Education (1693), a series of letters on raising a proper English gentleman, which is notable for its eradication of the doctrine of original sin, and its emphasis on play, tolerance, and reason in secular education. Locke's Thoughts was succeeded by Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Emile, or On Education (1762), in which a child was deployed as the agent of world-historical change. As culture and society changed in the course of 130 years, the structures and styles of books centered on children have also changed, producing iconic fictional characters that serve as an index of personal and social health, and virtue.
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