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Disrupting Gendered Pedagogies in the Early Childhood Classroom


April Larremore

Young children’s access to knowledge about gender, relationships, and sexuality has critical implications for their health and well-being, not only in their early years but throughout their lives. This knowledge can build children’s competencies and resilience, contributing to new cultural norms of non-violence in gendered and sexual relationships. For many early childhood teachers, interacting with children about issues concerning gender and sexuality is fraught with feelings of uneasiness and anxiety. For others, familiarity with research on these topics has resulted in rethinking their approaches to sex, gender, and sexuality in their early childhood classrooms. The pedagogical project discussed in Disrupting Gendered Pedagogies in the Early Childhood Classroom examines the tensions associated with one teacher’s attempts to rethink gendered narratives and childhood sexuality in her own classroom. This project illustrates that it is possible for early childhood teachers to use feminist poststructuralism and queer theory to deepen their understandings and responses to children’s talk, actions, and play regarding sex, gender, and sexuality and to use these understandings to inform their professional practice.
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Chapter 3. Disrupting Dominant Constructions

← 28 | 29 →Chapter 3


Constructivist and critical scholars suggest that the notion of child does not represent a universal human truth, but rather it is a category created through language and discourse that actually serves to limit and control the lives of those who are younger. Within postmodern and critical (Agger, 1991; McCarthy, 1991; Poster, 1989) research paradigms, the notion that younger human beings represent a separate and unique human condition called childhood has been examined and critiqued as producing power for one group of human beings over another (Cannella, 1997). Feminist poststructuralism has provided a lens through which these power relations can be exposed and deconstructed.

Emerging largely from both the enlightenment and modernist periods is the notion that younger human beings embody a separate human condition called childhood. In Western culture, childhood is typically ← 29 | 30 →viewed as a human state that we all experience and see as recognizably different from adulthood. Most people living in the United States view children as separate from adults and as part of a distinct group who are to be controlled, protected, and guided toward a more independent and competent self. By creating a body of human beings who must have decisions made for them and their actions carefully observed and monitored, we have constructed a group that is marginalized, belittled, and silenced and who are not deemed able or mature enough to create themselves (Cannella, 1997).

Early childhood teachers recognize that within enlightenment and modernist discourses, the concept of child has...

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