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Innocent ExperimentsChildhood and the Culture of Public Science in the United States$
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Rebecca Onion

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781469629476

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469629476.001.0001

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Conclusion Looking Closer at “Kids Are Little Scientists”

Conclusion Looking Closer at “Kids Are Little Scientists”

(p.165) Conclusion Looking Closer at “Kids Are Little Scientists”
Innocent Experiments

Rebecca Onion

University of North Carolina Press

Scholars working in childhood studies are quite often confronted by what I think of as the “cuteness problem.” American beliefs about childhood—“boys like trucks”; “kids are so innocent”; “children love candy”—seem ingrained enough to feel biological, exempt from cultural analysis; they are deeply appealing. The idea that “kids are little scientists” is one of these indelible tropes, a bit of twenty-first-century folk knowledge that pleases many people. Much of my own initial interest in this topic came from the inherent cuteness of the historical archive—the covers of chemistry sets, the space cadets in their helmets, the earnest “research reports” from science clubs. So I cannot much blame people who come up to me after I give a talk about chemistry sets and want to tell me anecdotes about their uncles blowing up their basements; it can be hard, indeed, to regard this history with an analytic eye....

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