Critical Issues in Early Childhood Education

By Nicola Yelland | Go to book overview

2

Reconceptualizing the field
(of early care and education):
If 'western' child development is a
problem, then what do we do?

Gaile S. Cannella

We must learn to be vulnerable enough to allow our world to turn upside
down in order to allow the realities of others to edge themselves into our
consciousness.

(Delpit, 1993, p. 139)

In 1997, I began the book Deconstructing Early Childhood Education: Social Justice and Revolution with the above quote from Lisa Delpit. At that time, I believed that the bona fide devotion to those who are younger sincerely exhibited by early childhood educators and researchers would open the door to that vulnerability. I continue to believe that the concern for those who are younger is honest and very well intended. I trusted, and still believe, to a somewhat lesser degree, however, that the genuine concern for younger human beings would (or could) lead to a willingness to turn one's world (and beliefs) upside down. Much of the work in the field since 1990, and certainly since 2000, challenges truth orientations, turns the 'world upside down', and reexamines notions of diversity, equity, and power in the conceptualization of child, family, and notions of care and education, as well as constructions of professional expertise. Early childhood educators and researchers in the international community have engaged in deconstructions of dominant notions of 'child'. Further, these critiques represent the range of thinking that includes postmodern, feminist, poststructural, and even postcolonial perspectives and lead to reconceptualizations of knowledges and possibilities for all of us (whether labeled young or old, adult or child).

Yet, this work continues to represent only a small percentage of the disseminated scholarship and academic constructions of practice within the field. Some academics in early childhood education and related fields have chosen to ignore and dismiss the perspectives as radical and uncaring without even attempting to develop a conscious awareness of the life positions from which such views might emerge.1 In my earlier writing, I certainly underestimated the disciplinary and regulatory powers embedded within truth-oriented

-17-

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