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Chapter Eight: Middle Childhood

Section 12: The Uses of Enchantment


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Filipina Dance at Filipina Festival, August 2, 1998, San Jose.


The child cannot find one's purpose in terms of commitment to principles and visions that one cannot yet comprehend. Nonetheless, each stage of development requires some form of meaning to one's existence.



Meaning must be communicated through identification with heroes and myths during the stage of concrete operations. One can thus easily understand the importance of comic book and television characters to children between the ages of six to eleven. Before there were comics and televisions, there were fairy tales. Bruno Bettelheim, author of The Uses of Enchantment, articulates the importance of this folk-art form:



Today children no longer grow up within the security of an extended family, or of a well-integrated community. Therefore, even more than at the times fairy tales were invented, it is important to provide the modern child with images of heroes who have to go out into the world all by themselves and who, although originally ignorant of ultimate things, find secure places in the world by following their right way with deep inner confidence.



Today, even more than in past times, the child needs the reassurance offered by the image of the isolated man who nevertheless is capable of achieving meaningful and rewarding relations with the world around him (The Uses of Enchantment, p. 11).



Bettelheim focuses on the fairy tale. Probably many forms of entertainment serve the function of providing answers to the questions of identity and purpose in life. We might do well to become more cognizant of the messages we are communicating through the various forms of entertainment if we want to use them effectively in achieving constructive educational objectives. We must determine what kinds of heroes and myths will be comprehended by children and will help point them in the direction of the ideal human described in chapter six.







Book Contents

Transcultural Friendship: Our Political Future


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Education in Early Childhood

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