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The Disappearance of Childhood Paperback – August 2, 1994

4.4 out of 5 stars 45 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The author of Technopoly examines the embattled nature of childhood in contemporary American culture.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.


"Postman persuasively mobilizes the insights of psychology, history, semantics, McLuhanology, and common sense on behalf of his astonishing and original thesis."
--Victor Navasky

Product Details

  • Paperback: 177 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage/Random House (August 2, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679751661
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679751663
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #53,973 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Neil Postman was chairman of the department of communication arts at New York University. He passed away in 2003.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Based upon Postman's description of childhood and the reason for its being, our society may be in jeopardy of losing this long-standing concept. Postman says that childhood came into existence about the time of the printing press; it arose out of a need to become a literate society in which adults controlled the information that children could access. Children had to learn to read so they could gain this information. Thus, schools were necessary. Furthermore, the adults' control of the information established a gap between adulthood and childhood. Adults could provide information to children when they deemed it was appropriate to do so. With the growth of electonic media and the move into the information age, adults have somewhat lost their control over the information; consequently, the gap between adulthood and childhood has been narrowed. Children are exposed to those"adult" ideas and thoughts sooner now because of their access to the information, i.e. consider today's television programs as just one example. Postman even contends that adults are more "child-like" in some ways; he give examples of the lack of distinction between clothing and language for adults and children. Perhaps a bit unfairly, Postman blames many of the less than positive changes in today's society on the media. However, this is a great read and provides a lot of "food for thought." The historical perspective that Postman provides on the "invention" of childhod is fascinating. His tracing of the developments growing out of the information age are logical and make a lot of sense. While he raises our concerns, Postman offers no real solutions to the problems.
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Format: Paperback
I must disagree with Postman that childhood is not a biological reality. I would be very inclined to agree, if he gave some evidence for that statement. Though, childhood may be also a social construction, as well as a biological one.
This book basically says that everyone acted the same until the printing press came along. This medium created a society where you had adults that could access information via reading, whereas kids really couldn't (not like adults anyway). Hence, we now have a separation between the people that read (adults) and the ones that don't (children). As time went on, adults' books were complicated and had things forbidden to children in them. Children's books were simple and well constructed for their age. People then started seeing children as qualitatively different from themselves; they made special laws and special clothes for children.
However, that changed with TV. Now what adults know, children also know. There is no hiding any adult type information from children (like sex), because of the ease of accessing T.V. Furthermore, unlike books, you don't need to acquire a skill to access information via TV (like being able to read). Since most people aren't blind, the 6-year-old is similar to the 60-year-old now in accessing information. Consequently, we see the disappearance of childhood. (He offers a range of proofs on how childhood is indeed changing.)
Personally, I agree with the thesis, but believe the way it was derived, was weak. However, there is a lot of information to be learned by reading this. It is also a fun book to read. That is why I give it four stars.
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Format: Paperback
It is simply untrue to write, as Amazon Reviewer Aaron Swartz writes, that Neil Postman praised the Children's Letters "because they agreed with him". Rather, Postman praised them because they showed by their responses that they valued the declining institution of Childhood, and that they were clearly distressed by the possibilities raised in Postman's Book.

Basically, Postman in his book said: "Society no longer values the distinctiveness of Children relative to Adults, and as a result the institution of Childhood is eroding out of existence."

The Children responded by saying: "We are TOO Distinct from Adults!", and Postman praised them for valuing their declining distinctiveness enough to defend the concept that they are still distinct (a concept all too often not defended by Adults).

Postman values Childhood, and as a result he values (and praises) children who show by their words that they value childhood themselves.

And the thing that is that Postman explicitly said in his Preface to the new edition that he was praising the Children for showing they valued Childhood and for raising the thrilling possibility to Postman's mind that Children could themselves be a conserving force against the array of Adult assaults upon the Childhood Concept. Moreover, he most assuredly gave no indication that he was praising them for agreeing with him.

There is nothing difficult to understand in this, and as a result one may conclude it possible that the misreading of the Amazon reviewer (a misreading clearly intended to discredit Postman) was both willful and deceptive in its intent.
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