Parent and baby pictures, whether of humans or animals, are universally compelling. This touching scene raises sensitive issues about family, parenthood and relationships, most important for the future of our society.
Primates What are primates (two types: anthropoids - apes, monkeys, humans; and prosimians - such as lemurs)? Did we descend from apes (no, we had the same ancestors long ago, but the human and ape species then diverged)? What do we have in common (sit upright, some can walk, omnivorous, similar type of mammal with fingers, toes, head shape, breast-feeding, child-rearing, hierarchies, intelligence)?
Parenthood What are parents expected to do (feed, love, protect, educate, house, support their children)? How do parents find you a school (have to choose, may be turned down, can appeal)? How long are they "in charge" (until you're 18, when you're legally an adult, but some hang on longer)? What does "beyond parental control" mean (child may be taken into care or, if criminal acts are committed, sent away to an institution for young offenders)? Do you think most children get on well with their parents? Why do parents and children sometimes fall out during adolescence (children are becoming adults, want to assert themselves, rebel, test the limits, clash of values, rivalry)? What can be done (talk about it, be reasonable, stay cool, love and respect each other)?
Relationships Why are relationships so important to people (we are a gregarious species, like to associate together rather than be loners)? Why are good relationsips particularly prized in childhood and adolescence (shared interests, friendships valued, feelings of insecurity, so stick together)? What is "peer group pressure" (pressure from your mates to behave in a certain way or conform to the group's norms and expectations)? Have you ever experienced it (fashion and dress, tastes in music, sport, leisure, smoking, drinking, drugs, calling someone a "boff", "nerd", or "anorak" if they try hard at school)? Should you yield to such pressure or assert your independence and individuality? If people resist pressure, is it tolerated and respected, or are they ostracised?
Writing Make up a conversation between this parent and child. What do they talk about? Write funny captions for the picture ("No homework, no television." "But mum, everybody else has got a computer").
Is the parent-child relationship as important as we think it is?
For Relationships from birth determine the way we are. Parents are the closest to us, so their influence, for good or ill, is profound. What else can we know as small children apart from what our parents tell us? Parents are key people who hold the future of society in their hands.
Against The part played by parents is exaggerated; most people can think for themselves after early childhood. They often reject what their parents told them. In future people may spend 18 years with parents and 80 years away from them. Parents deal the cards, but we play the hand.
Ted Wragg is professor of education at the University of Exeter .