Stories set in schools haven’t been the same for me since my teachers’ college year. Dead Poet’s Society ceased to be a story about an inspirational, enthusiastic English teacher and more a demonstration of an egotistical lover of attention who would have served his students better if he had tried a bit of group work. (Jumping around on desks is also considered uncouth in a country where even sitting on desks is a no-no. This was New Zealand.)
I grew annoyed at the number of fictional teachers keeping individual students behind after class to speak to them about various misdemeanours — mostly young men in fake horn-rims who, had they been of truly innocent intent, as we were meant to believe as the audience, would have made sure never, ever to be in a room alone with any student, and that the classroom door was always open.
We are now in what’s known as The Third Golden Age of Children’s Literature. Naturally the first and second golden ages came before.
What are the main differences between books from the first and second golden ages?
FIRST GOLDEN AGE: 1850-WW1
(Note: Some say the first golden age ended at the turn of the century.)
- Great writers would team up with great illustrators
- Industrial revolution led to advances in printing
- The growing middle class increased their interest in education
- Didcatic and moral
- Reassurance that everything will turn out all right despite huge adversities
- Duty, self-sacrifice, no complaining
- Children do rather than think
- Outside all day with no supervision
- Proud of their class
- Boys are stronger and bolder than girls
It was thought that children could be taught to do the right thing by having the wrong thing done to them. Sort of like hitting a kid for hitting. This is from a bowdlerised version of The Water Babies published originally 1862-63