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Pedagogies of Kindness and Respect

On the Lives and Education of Children

Edited By Paul L. Thomas, Paul R. Carr, Julie A. Gorlewski and Brad J. Porfilio

Pedagogies of Kindness and Respect presents a wide variety of concepts from scholars and practitioners who discuss pedagogies of kindness, an alternative to the «no excuses» ideology now dominating the way that children are raised and educated in the U.S. today. The fields of education, and especially early childhood education, include some histories and perspectives that treat those who are younger with kindness and respect. This book demonstrates an informed awareness of this history and the ways that old and new ideas can counter current conditions that are harmful to both those who are younger and those who are older, while avoiding the reconstitution of the romantic, innocent child who needs to be saved by more advanced adults. Two interpretations of the upbringing of children are investigated and challenged, one suggesting that the poor do not know how to raise their children and thus need help, while the other looks at those who are privileged and therefore know how to nurture their young. These opposing views have been discussed and problematized for more than thirty years. Pedagogies of Kindness and Respect investigates the issue of why this circumstance has continued and even worsened today.
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Introduction: “God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”


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“God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”


Eliot Rosewater in Kurt Vonnegut’s (1965) God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater implores: “‘God damn it, you’ve got to be kind”’ (p. 129). In Sandra Cisneros’s (2004) short story “Eleven,” Rachel sits in class on her eleventh birthday, a day when she is confronted by her teacher about a found red sweater that the teacher is certain belongs to Rachel: “‘Of course it’s yours,’ Mrs. Price says. ‘I remember you wearing it once.’ Because she’s older and the teacher, she’s right and I’m not” (p. 42). While these are fictional representations, children’s lives are realized in a state of powerlessness, silenced by the hierarchy of authority. The sweater in Cisneros’s story is, in fact, not Rachel’s, but as the narration reveals, truth is secondary to hierarchy, subjugated by codified authority.

Throughout the world, children tend to experience not only silencing but also a level of harshness not tolerated among adults. The twenty-first century remains a callous place for children in their lives and their schools, notably in the U.S. where childhood poverty is over 22% and the new majority of public schools serve children in poverty (Southern Education Foundation, 2013). But more than the conditions of children’s lives and schools in the twenty-first century is worth addressing. As Barbara Kingsolver...

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