Re-situating Canadian Early Childhood Education
Table Of Contents
- About the Author
- About the Book
- This eBook can be cited
- Foreword—Reconceptualist Her/Histories in Early Childhood Studies: Challenges, Power Relations, and Critical Activism
- Rejecting Universalist Perspectives: Listening to Early Childhood Herstories and the Possibilities of Deconstruction
- Continued Reconceptualist Work: Unmasking Social Power Relations and Constructing Critical Activism
- Power Relations
- Critical Activism
- 1 Resituating Early Childhood Education: Introduction
- Change and Continuity in ECE
- Resituating ECE in Relation to Postfoundational Theory
- The Chapters Ahead
- 2 The Integration of Cognitive and Sociocultural Theories of Literacy Development for Instruction and Research: Why? How?
- Cognitive Theory of Literacy Development
- Sociocultural Theory of Literacy Development
- A Comparison of Cognitive and Sociocultural Views of Literacy Development
- Why Integrate Cognitive and Sociocultural Theories?
- How to Integrate Cognitive and Sociocultural Theories of Literacy
- Appendix: The Cognitive Foundations of Learning to Read: A Framework (Wren, 2001)
- 3 Valuing Subjective Complexities: Disrupting the Tyranny of Time
- Constructing Clock-Bound Worlds
- Listening Encounters
- Being with Documentation . . .
- Being with Materials . . .
- Being with Human and Companion Species . . .
- Learning Together, Subjective Time, and Insider Insights
- Disruptive Possibilities
- 4 Addressing Divides and Binaries in Early Childhood Education: Disability, Discourse and Theory, and Practice in a Bachelor of Education Program
- Theoretical Framing
- Methodology and Design
- Preliminary Survey
- Final Survey
- Focus Groups
- 5 An Early Childhood Professional’s Authority: How Can It Be Used for Influencing and Instigating Action for Social Goods?
- Authority in the Classroom and Profession
- Taking Authority Back as an Early Childhood Professional
- Authority Reclaimed by Early Childhood Professionals
- 6 When Queer Enters Early Childhood Teacher Training: What’s So Inappropriate about That?
- Why We Need Queer Identity in Early Childhood Training
- From Social Welfare to Public Policy: Moving Queer from Private to Public
- Exploring Queer Identity in Early Childhood Training
- 7 Immigrant Parents Taking Part in Their Children’s Education: A Practical Experiment
- Background Information: Canadian Immigration and Students in the Canadian Educational System
- Theoretical Frameworks and Other Interventions
- Critical Pedagogy
- Cultural Capital
- Identity, Engagement, and Community
- The Eight-Month Parent Group Intervention
- The Parenting Workshops Intervention: Learning the Codes of Power
- The Parenting Circles Intervention
- Carrying on the Work: Looking to the Future
- 8 Making Developmental Knowledge Stutter and Stumble: Continuing Pedagogical Explorations with Collective Biography
- Making Developmental Knowledge Stutter
- Thinking with New Materialisms
- Making Developmental Knowledge Stumble
- Developmental Knowledge as a Doing
- 9 Children’s Representations of Cultural Scripts in Play: Facilitating Transition from Home to Preschool in an Intercultural Early Learning Program for Refugee Children
- Background and Purpose
- Intercultural Early Learning Program for Refugee Children: A Participatory Learning and Action (PLA) Project
- Intercultural Early Childhood Practices: A Theoretical Framework
- Sociocultural-Historical Learning
- The Value of Play Promoted by DAP: Development of the Universal Child
- Play as a Cultural Activity: Development of the Culturally Situated Child
- Research Question and Methodology
- Setting and Participants
- Data Collection and Procedures
- Playing “Reality” Cultural Scripts in Childrens Play
- Playing Tea Serving
- Playing Going to the Market
- Examining Childrens Worlds as Represented in Classroom Play
- Discussion and Implications for Practice
- Summary and Conclusion
- 10 Resituating Practice through Teachers’ Storying of Children’s Interests
- Connecting the Past, Present, and Future
- Brushing Teeth
- Theoretical Background
- Colonial Discourses in Inuit Communities
- Recapitulation Theory
- Evolutionary Theory
- Decolonial Theory
- Postcolonial Discourses
- Indigenous Research
- Transformative Education
- Action Research Approach
- Learning Stories in Nunavik
- Two Stories
- Snow Illu
- Reflection on the story
- Going to the Playground
- Reflection on the story
- Reflection on contrasting cultures
- 11 Taking Children’s Rights and Participation Seriously: Cross-national Perspectives and Possibilities
- Resituating Early Childhood and the UNCRC
- Opening Spaces for Child Participation and Voice: Cross-national Examples
- Northern Ireland
- Applying These Ideas Closer to Home
- Child Rights and Consultation in the Classroom
- Talking with Young Children about Their Experiences
- Closing Reflections
- List of Contributors
Reconceptualist Her/Histories in Early Childhood Studies
Challenges, Power Relations, and Critical Activism
For the past twenty or thirty years, groups of early childhood researchers and educators around the globe have stood for the reconceptualization of early childhood education, now often referred to as critical early childhood studies. Conceptually and ideologically, the rethought field emphasizes more socially just and diverse ways of knowing, being, and doing (Bloch, 1992; Cannella, 1997; Jipson, 1991; Mac Naughton, 2000; Silin, 1987). Reconceptualist early education is closely aligned with civil rights, equity, and diversity as reconceptualist scholars have challenged, and continue to challenge, dominant ideologies in the field that reinforce Euro-Western assumptions about human beings and life in general. The Enlightenment, modernist attempt to extinguish the premodern through the construction of a belief in science has created a self-named “Western” environment that has legitimated social control and regulation by those in power over “others” (Cannella, 1997; Cannella & Viruru, 2004; Dahlberg, Moss, & Pence, 1999; Shallwani, 2010). Shallwani (2010) explains that “the modern Enlightenment project has been characterized by belief in the power of sciences to discover objective universal truth, belief that the pursuit and attainment of this knowledge can lead to a better life, and belief in a liberal democratic state founded on rationality and knowledge” (p. 232).
Science as modernist practice, facilitated by technologies of power that continue to be used to literally conceptualize and control those who are younger, has been exposed by reconceptualist early childhood scholars as a universalizing and narrowing foundation for the field (Cannella & Viruru, 2004; Shallwani, 2010). The domination of developmental psychology over those labeled as “child” and the hierarchical relationship between psychology and education/pedagogy that privileges psychology are illustrations of foundational notions that serve to universalize and discredit ways of being and understanding that do not conform to the truths as constructed by that psychology.
As early as 1987 in the United States, early childhood scholars like Marianne Bloch, Janice Jipson, Shirley Kessler, Sally Lubeck, Beth Swadener, Johnathan Silin, and Lourdes Soto began the dialogue that questioned the knowledge bases that dominate the field. In 1991, the first annual Reconceptualizing Early Childhood Research, Theory and Practice (RECE) conference was held at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, in the United States. This event has since provided a means for early childhood reconceptualists to disseminate their work/research as regular meetings are held worldwide. In the 1990s, Joe Kincheloe and Janice Jipson introduced the Peter Lang book series Rethinking Childhood that serves as an avenue for reconceptualization to this day. Early childhood scholars from around the globe like Sue Grieshaber and Glenda Mac Naughton in Australia, Jeannette Rhedding-Jones in Norway, and Gunilla Dahlberg in Sweden practiced their own critical early childhood scholarship during the 1990s, at times directly associated with the reconceptualist label, and at other times contributing to the diversity of knowledges and perspectives in the reconceptualist tradition, but without direct association with the label.
Over the past twenty years, reconceptualist educators and scholars have placed at the forefront diverse, and traditionally marginalized, forms of knowledge as well as demonstrated practices for/with those who are younger that generate increased possibilities for social justice in education, care, and their lives in general. Multiple reconceptualist book series now exist with authorship from around the globe, as well as a readership from diverse fields and locations. Reconceptualist educator-scholars publish in a range of established journals across fields, as well as in the two major reconceptualist journals: Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood and International Critical Childhood Policy Studies.
The intent of reconceptualist scholars/scholarship is not to invent new truths, but to challenge the construction of truths that have placed particular groups of people, forms of knowledge, and ways of being in the margins. The purposes of reconceptualizations have been/are to embrace multiplicity, cultural studies, equity, and diversity, and to contribute to a world where social justice, environmental justice, and life possibilities are increased for all individuals regardless of their background, while critically acknowledging conditions that have created, and continue to create, marginalization and inequity (Cannella, 2002; Dahlberg et al., 1999; Grieshaber & Cannella, 2001; Kessler & Swadener, 1992).
The purpose of this foreword is to provide the reader with more specifics of reconceptualist herstory/history as a background for understanding the intersection of early childhood reconceptualist work in the range of communities, diverse locations, and countries around the globe. We ask the reader to begin by considering (and, it is hoped, understanding) the following: (1) As foundational scholarship from the past twenty or thirty years is presented in the first section, we use the term herstory rather than history, especially when discussing the work of early childhood scholars who are predominantly female. Upon reviewing a range of new manuscripts over the years for journals and new books as they have been submitted for publication, the more common practice noted is for the work of males (and sometimes a small number of others) outside the field to be used as the originating work. This practice is obviously problematic and represents the erasure of the field of early childhood education (children as overlooked) and women as the largest group of scholars in the field (whose scholarship is also often ignored, discounted, disregarded). (2) We then move to an overview, not a complete literature review, of the work related to understanding social power relations that has been, and is being, conducted by reconceptualist early childhood scholars or those whose work facilitates the reconceptualist tradition. This discussion foregrounds the call for critical activism, work that has begun but that can/should be expanded.
Rejecting Universalist Perspectives: Listening to Early Childhood Herstories and the Possibilities of Deconstruction
The specific work of various reconceptualist scholars within the field can be used to demonstrate the herstory of challenges to universalisms. There are multiple universalisms that have been/should be called into question. However, the most obvious of these constructed truths that have been universally imposed on early childhood education are the knowledge(s) from developmental psychology, thus the example overviewed here. Beginning in the 1980s, reconceptualist scholars (Bloch, 1987, 1992; Burman, 1994; Cannella, 1997; Lubeck, 1996; Silin, 1987) from around the globe began to speak out and question this dominance over the field. Child development research has been constructed as the foundation for a truth-oriented pedagogy grounded in Piagetian constructivism and designated as developmentally appropriate practice (DAP) (Bredekamp & Copple, 1997). Often even without engaging in modernist forms of scientific rational criticism that Piaget would likely have supported, this developmental knowledge has been/is presented as truth directly applicable to classroom practice and rarely critiqued or questioned (Cannella, 1997; Silin, 1987; Soto & Swadener, 2002).
Jonathon Silin (1987) openly challenges the reliance of early childhood education on truth-oriented psychological perspectives. He discusses the influence of Bacon, Descartes, Darwin, Piaget, G. Stanley Hall, and the child study movement on the privileging of a modernist scientific, early childhood education. Twenty-five years ago, Silin explained that although most early childhood educators have a sense of mission and commitment to the field, there remains a “certain forgetfulness about the history that has shaped the profession—early educators have borrowed heavily from some academic disciplines while totally ignoring others in order to rationalize existing practices” (p. 17). This forgetfulness results in knowledges and (most important) lives that are disregarded, discounted, and made invisible.
Marianne Bloch (1987) expands this critical perspective by examining the social, political, and cultural assumptions that have guided the field dating back to the colonial era in the United States. Her review brings attention to the scientific claims (e.g., early years as privileged determiner of one’s life, regulation through notions of expert professionalism, necessity of graded classrooms, and views that privilege experimentalism) that have been used to legitimize early education in the United States since the nineteenth century. Bloch’s herstorical research exposes a field that is guided by psychological theory and researchers (e.g., Hall, Thorndike), and deemed legitimate by invoking claim to positivist, scientific experimental research. The push to become scientific and professional dominated early nursery schools of the 1920s. Bloch (1987) writes that “after WWI, ‘scientifically sound curriculum’ became synonymous with ‘legitimate’ education” (p. 46), demonstrating how constructions of science were/are tied to modernism and the particular views of those in power.
Bloch’s herstorical reexamination written in 1992 further critiques and expands understanding of the relationship between developmental psychology and early childhood research. She takes issue with the positivist research methodologies and traditions that dominate early childhood curriculum, theory, and practice. Bloch (1992) discusses how the assumptions of a legitimated scientific education (e.g., importance of teacher training, education’s assumed role in the elimination of inequities like poverty), based on developmental psychology and Euro-Western ideologies, have marginalized other critical perspectives (e.g., feminist, postmodern, poststructual, postcolonial).
Erica Burman (1994), a feminist critical psychologist whose work has profoundly influenced early childhood reconceptualists, began by critiquing the dominance of developmental psychology as a field generally grounded in assumptions that human beings can be interpreted and judged. The work outlines the negative impact that the discipline has had on children and their families in modern society if they do not conform to Euro-Western mainstream ideologies. Central to Burman’s discussions are illustrations of how developmental psychology serves to regulate marginalized populations (e.g., women, children, low socioeconomic status, minority ethnic populations) by singling them out as objects to study and measure based on normative descriptions deemed scientific and necessarily prescriptive. Burman (1994) explains how the field of developmental psychology literally creates theories and constructs that are then imposed on particular groups of people. An example is the emergence of theories of attachment that associate females with dependence and the requirement of human attachment, while privileging constructs like detachment (stereotypically associated with males) as the ultimate form of advanced human functioning. Further, these theories generate an acceptance of constructs like normality and abnormality. In a more recent edition, Burman (2008) continues to discuss how developmental psychology, and its dependence on measurement, reinforces the production of research objects and subjects, who are primarily mothers and children. Normative descriptions/prescriptions are imposed on groups of people to maintain gender, class, or racial order and result in discrimination. The construction of dominant views of mothering serves as an example illustrating how developmental psychology oppresses different ways of knowing, being, and doing in an attempt to construct, regulate, and legislate the adequacy of mothering, and is therefore used to control women.
Similarly, yet focusing on the specific content knowledge used to construct the field of early childhood education, Cannella’s (1997) herstory explains that the knowledges and voices of children have been ignored and left out of the knowledge bases that dominate the field. The ways of being and living of those who are younger, as well as their families and communities, are referred to as the “voices of silent knowing” (p. 10). Similar to Bloch (1994), the ways in which developmental psychology has imposed foundational assumptions on the field of early childhood education are discussed. Universalist foundational assumptions include an acceptance of an adult/child dichotomy that privileges those who are older; progress as a necessity of the human condition both individually and as a species; and a one-size-fits-all linear, developmental, predetermined sequence model for human functioning. As an example, when a defined form of progress does not occur, the individual (most often one categorized as “child”) is labeled deficient. Child development assumptions have led to social and cultural injustices, which in turn have limited life possibilities for those who are younger by creating (1) multiple forms of privilege and control, (2) covert methods for social regulation and domination, (3) an acceptance of hierarchical/patriarchal human relations, and (4) views of humanity as deficient. Finally, developmental psychology has “legitimized the surveillance, measurement, and social control of children and other marginalized groups in the name of growth and human change” (Cannella, 1997, p. 63).
In the United States during the 1990s, professionals from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) used child development “knowledge” to construct a discourse of classroom “best practices” labeled developmentally appropriate practice (DAP). This universalist discourse defines and imposes guidelines for “quality” on early childhood classrooms, programs, and even research (Cannella, 1997; Cannella & Soto, 2010). Although generated in the United States, DAP guidelines are disseminated around the globe as well as used to create requirements for accreditation and licensure in a range of locations. From DAP’s inception, reconceptualists have directly challenged DAP as a universalist, deterministic imposition of developmental psychology. As an example, using three dimensions of early childhood curriculum (i.e., knowledge, development, and context), Jipson (1998) analyzed the personal journals, personal narratives, and philosophy statements of thirty early childhood educators discussing the implications of DAP and culturally appropriate practices for early childhood. Jipson’s (1998) work clearly demonstrates the dominant Euro-American cultural bias of NAEYC’s DAP model.
Over time and in a range of publications, Sally Lubeck’s (1994, 1996, 1998) herstorical work has delineated the ways that developmental psychology has damaged/is damaging beliefs, practices, and research in early childhood education. In particular, her 1998 work outlines assumptions within DAP that dominate and narrow understandings and possibilities for children, their teachers, and caregivers as well as the field. Lubeck (1998) describes these assumptions as privileging: (1) belief in objective appraisal; (2) acceptance of the objective, detached, and unbiased observer; (3) truth-oriented generalization of research broadly applied to humans and social settings; and (4) the institutionalization of a universal hierarchy of knowledge.
In more recent work, Shallwani (2010) presents a textual analysis of the language in the NAEYC DAP document. The work illustrates how child development discourse “depicts families as deficient in caring for their children and the discipline/profession as the legitimate knowledge base regarding children and childhood” (p. 242). Like previous scholars, Shallwani discusses the impact that the Enlightenment modernist project has had on the belief in the powers of science to uncover a predetermined “normal” that ultimately discredits and disqualifies those constituted as abnormal. Using a Foucaultian lens, Shallwani’s analysis reveals how the guise of quality imposed by DAP is a form of racism, and serves to oppress children and their families by monitoring and regulating their bodies and the settings and people in which, and with whom, they interact. Shallwani calls this a reproduction of imperialism in an attempt to divide, classify, and normalize children and adults into useful and docile human beings based on white and imperial dominant ideologies.
For decades, reconceptualist scholars (Bloch, 1987, 1992, 2000; Bloch, Kennedy, Lightfoot, & Weyenberg, 2006; Bloch & Popkewitz, 2000; Cannella, 1997; Cannella & Soto, 2010; Dahlberg et al., 1999; Kennedy & Bloch, 2010; Kessler, 1991; Kessler & Swadener, 1992; Lubeck, 1991, 2000; Silin, 1987; Soto & Swadener, 2002) have questioned the knowledge bases (e.g., child development; developmental psychology; constructions of play, quality, cognition, gender, race) that frame the field of early childhood education. These challenges have led to new ways of thinking, as well as the acknowledgment of individuals, groups, ways of being and knowing, and social inequities that are usually hidden, placed in the margins, and even erased. Some have been concerned that critique and deconstruction lead only to negativity, inaction, even depression. However, those who are part of the reconceptualist tradition view critique as increasing possibilities and as a position from which action can be taken. These scholars around the globe are attempting to place at the center knowledges and ways of being that have been traditionally marginalized.
Multiple volumes could be written describing the range of reconceptualist work in different geopolitical locations that would deconstruct, while at the same time reconstruct new possibilities. The work of Canadian early childhood scholars in this volume provides excellent examples of this deconstructive action. Sherry Rose and Pam Whitty challenge the disciplinary power of “clock time” by working with child-care educators to focus on knowledges and relationships that are not governed by time. Veronica Pacini-Ketchabaw, Kathleen Kummen, and Deborah Thompson use collective biography to contest psychological universals as developmental memories are revealed as multiple and situated and as forms of knowledge that are constructed by the material world. Anna Kirova defies universalist notions of play by focusing on culturally initiated actions that result in hybrid spaces through which play, for children and adults, is a vehicle for the preservation of cultural knowledges, ways of being, and identities.
While this work is absolutely positive, certainly leads to unique possibilities, and should be understood as the future, dominant ideologies continue to construct theory, practice, and research in the field, and create power for those who accept them. This condition leads to the broader body of work by reconceptualists, research into social regulations and the construction of hierarchal power relations over and through those who are younger, as well as critical activism that is required to counter those power relations.
Continued Reconceptualist Work: Unmasking Social Power Relations and Constructing Critical Activism
Globally, and in specific cultures and locations, reconceptualists acknowledge that patriarchy, colonialism, and capitalism have resulted in social regulations as well as physical domination imposed by particular groups over others. Intersecting power relations produce and are produced by dominant discourse practices, resulting in inequitable power and oppressive relations. Those who are younger; their teachers and parents; and particular racial, gendered, and ethnic groups are placed in the margins.
As a broad example from outside early childhood education but as a circumstance in which the field is embedded, males continue to dominate females in a range of cultures and societies. This self-aggrandizing construction of “male superiority,” or patriarchy, is most evident in the preferential treatment that privileges males across the construction of languages, discourse practices, accepted/expected human behaviors, and even national and international governmental and expectations for leadership (Cannella & Viruru, 2004). Thus, males are constructed as normal (and advanced) and females are constructed as abnormal (and inferior). Females are held responsible for reproduction and nurturance (as this ultimate power tied to reproduction is continually discredited), while males are to perform capitalist production as they explain, order, and regulate. Euro-Western Christian, white male ways of knowing and doing have dominated Western societies and maintained conceptualizations of the female as the eternal caretaker. Even in contemporary time periods in which females go to war (serving as the stereotypic male killing machine or servant to that machine), voices of nonviolence that would counter assassination and war are most often silenced, and the acceptance of female leadership is relatively rare (e.g., military, business, national governments dominated by males). This mind-set is carried over to education, and especially early childhood education and care, with most teachers being females who are controlled by the gatekeepers of the system. These gatekeepers and social regulators include principals, school boards, accountability systems that would regulate behavior, and even CEOs, all who label, discredit, control, and even fire teachers and caregivers from within contemporary agendas that would privatize traditionally public services for children. Critical action is obviously needed within this context in which complex and intersecting social relations produce power and are reinscribed by that power.
Early childhood reconceptualists demonstrate the ways that a preoccupation with capitalist patriarchy and colonialist social control and power is evident in discourses (ways of knowing and doing) that dominate early childhood beliefs, programs, curriculum, and research. The work of Michael Foucault (1977), a French philosopher and social theorist, is widely recognized and used by reconceptualist early childhood scholars. His critical, poststructural analyses of disciplinary and regulatory powers provide frameworks for understanding the current state of early childhood education. Foucault proposes that disciplinary power produces control over colonized populations through dominant discourses (Cannella & Viruru, 2004); thus, power dichotomies are created, for example normal versus abnormal, colonizer versus subaltern, adult versus child. An environment that accepts legislated regulatory power is also produced. Relations of power are created as “one group places restrictions on the human bodies of another group, controlling what oppressed bodies can do and what spaces they are allowed to inhabit and navigate” (Cannella, 2002, p. 207). By 1999, a large number of reconceptualist early childhood scholars were using poststructural analysis, feminist theories, and various forms of postcolonial critique as well as critical and queer theories to examine social relations and power as produced and producing. (See Cannella & Bailey, 1999, for example studies from the various perspectives.)
As we have discussed, reconceptualist scholars object to the imposition of universal truths on the minds and bodies of others, whether labeled child or adult (Bloch, 1992; Cannella, 1997). Further, universalist truths have been “used to legitimize intervening into the lives of ‘others’ (most often those labeled children) in order to ‘save’ those others from whatever we deemed to be a problem” (Cannella, 1997, p. 2). This legitimation of intervention results in all types of power relations and the privileging of particular groups (even individuals) over others.
For example, behind the mask of child-centered pedagogy, “children have been created as a group of people who must be observed and who are in opposition, at least in intellectual ability, agency, and behavior, to adults” (Viruru & Cannella, 2001, p. 102). Observation of children (or surveillance, as discussed by Foucault, 1977) is legitimated as necessary as adults must “protect” and “guide” those who are younger so that they will be “safe” and their development appropriately guided and controlled. Attempts to regulate the bodies and spaces of children in order to measure and control those who are younger are embedded within the child development discourse that has dominated, and continues to dominate, practice (Shallwani, 2010). In addition, Campbell and Smith (2001) share another insight on observation and how it even narrows opportunities and the directions for change for those who are younger:
Because traditional observation values and privileges developmental forms of knowledge over other ways of knowing the child, the practice of observation acts as a disciplinary instrument of surveillance. The child’s freedom to move toward adulthood is constrained by knowledge of what it is to be normal and desirable. (p. 92)
- ISBN (PDF)
- ISBN (ePUB)
- ISBN (MOBI)
- ISBN (Softcover)
- ISBN (Hardcover)
- Publication date
- 2014 (December)
- value potential diversity
- New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2013. XXVI, 214 pp., num. ill.