In our new title, Whatever You Want, Ellen Duthie and Daniela Martagón invite people, small, medium and large, to explore freedom and many other related concepts: safety, limits, rules, choice, free will, privacy and more.
Like all the titles in our Visual Philosophy for Children series, Whatever You Want feeds on extensive, rich and careful work in workshops with children and adults before and during the creation process.
At Wonder Ponder we ask, we listen, we dialogue, we observe. We draw up a general map of questions on the core issue and see which questions are of particular interest to children of different ages, so that we can then attempt to condense them in the scenes we finally select to be included in the book.
Because of the way we work, starting off with a prior philosophical map of questions and then using it to gather real concerns and spark further questions from children in our workshops and at the schools we work, our Wonder Ponder books do not only contain questions and situations designed by adults for children. They also contain many questions in the other direction: questions and concerns put forward by children and teenagers which, when put to adults, can open up an interesting dialogue between generations.
One of the issues that frequently comes up in workshops on freedom with children (with teenagers, yes but also with younger children) is privacy. 'Do we have to tell our parents everything or are there parts of life we can keep to ourselves?'
A nine-year-old girl complained at one workshop: 'My Mum is always asking me what I've been up to and she wants to know every little detail. But I don't tell her everything because there are some things I like to keep to myself'. When asked what sort of thing she preferred to keep to herself and whether they were things she somehow feared telling her mother, she answered: 'Oh, no. It's got nothing to do with fear. It's not because they are bad things. They're just mine. They're mine and I don't feel like sharing them with anyone else'. Sparked by this sentiment and other similar feelings of other people in the group, we engaged in a riveting dialogue about the right to privacy.
Usually, when adults speak of children's right to privacy, we tend to focus our attention on the protection of the private nature of pictures and personal information in an increasingly public world, for instance, or on the right to remain anonymous of celebreties' kids, to give another example. We focus on home-outwards privacy. But what about home-inwards? Do children have the right to a private life their parents don't know of? If so, from what age? Do children have the right to have private correspondence? What aspects of their lives is it acceptable - or desirable - for us to be informed of? Where is the line between protection and intrusion? From what age does a child have a right to this kind of privacy?
There are at least two scenes in Whatever You Want that trigger wondering, pondering and questioning on these issues. The first puts forward a possible world where a thought reading machine has been invented.
On the back of the scene, some of the questions suggested are: 'Why do you think the doctor is reading the boy’s thoughts? What thoughts do you think the reader has detected? What would you do if other people could read your thoughts? Can you control what you think? Imagine this thought reader really existed. Who should be able to use it, who with and what for?'
The second scene (for this one you'll need to resort to your imagination) shows a boy inside a wardrobe with the only company of a sweet kitten. He has made himself a great little den, with everything required to enjoy his freedom. Some of the questions on the back are:
'Do you think the boy in the scene is free? Is feeling free the same as being free? Is it possible to be freer when hiding than when in front of others?' And then that seemingly simple yet rather hard question to answer. 'Do children have the right to keep some things private from their parents?'
These are questions that are far from easy to answer, whether you are a child or an adult, and, precisely because they are not easy, they are also the most interesting type of question to share and the most fascinating kind of question to explore. Questions posed by children for other children, by adults for children and by children for adults, all of them great for wondering and pondering freely.
So, do children have the right to keep some things private from their parents?
What do you think?
Find out more about the Wonder Ponder series of Visual Philosophy for Children here.