I ended a previous volume on literacy (Marum, 1995) with the following short section entitled 'Towards a Beginning' and, because the present volume is both a continuation and a development of the previous one, I should like to introduce this book with that same section:

The concept of childhood is not quite dead. If the inevitable pressures upon young people will continue to accelerate their premature desires for the imagined worlds of adolescence and maturity, it will be all the more important that the formal education they receive should seek to directly address the 'specific conditions of their lives' from nursery to secondary schooling. If the other face of innocence is enquiry, educators must acknowledge and act upon the very real enthusiasm for learning that young people regularly, and often despite the odds, display. They must, above all, radically change their practice to retain and stimulate that enthusiasm through the years of formal schooling.