Understanding Early Childhood: Issues and Controversies

Understanding Early Childhood: Issues and Controversies

Understanding Early Childhood: Issues and Controversies

Understanding Early Childhood: Issues and Controversies


"This book should be essential reading for every student of Early Childhood Studies who wants to approach this rapidly expanding field of study with an open mind." Eva Lloyd, Senior Lecturer in Early Childhood Studies, University of Bristol, UK"This book makes a unique and significant contribution to the international study of early childhood. Using an analytical but accessible style, it addresses several of the most persistent conventional wisdoms in the field, bringing a wide and creative range of material from a variety of disciplines and diverse cultures to bear. Early childhood educators and researchers, policy makers and advocates... will welcome this thoughtful book." Martha Friendly, Director, Childcare Resource and Research Unit, University of Toronto, Canada"This is a very readable account of theories and approaches in early childhood care and education. It challenges us to re-examine the origins and underpinnings of established practice. It takes an international perspective and will be valuable for training new teachers and for ongoing teacher development." Linda Biersteker, Head of Research, Early Learning Resource Unit, Cape Town, South AfricaDrawing on research evidence from across the world, this book offers a wide-ranging perspective on the ways in which we understand and study young children. The book summarizes current debates in child development, and looks at different ways of understanding early childhood and the various methods used to gain understanding, featuring: Personal memories of childhood Neuro-scientific and genetic interpretations of childhood Cultural perspectives Chapters on history, health and child rights Understanding Early Childhoodconcludes with an analysis of everyday practices in working with young children from across the world. It is key reading for early childhood students and practitioners working with young children.


When one considers how many facts – habits, beliefs – we take for granted in
thinking or saying anything at all, how many notions, ethical, political, social,
personal, go to the making of the outlook of a single person, however simple and
unreflective, we begin to realize how very small a part of the total our sciences –
not merely natural sciences, which work by generalizing at a high level of
abstraction, but the humane, 'impressionistic' studies, history, biography, soci
ology, introspective psychology, the methods of the novelists, of the writers of
memoirs, of students of affairs from every angle – are able to take in. And this is
not a matter for surprise or regret; if we were aware of all that in principle we
could be aware of we should swiftly be out of our minds

I have written this book as a result of teaching courses on child development to undergraduates taking early childhood courses at the University of East London. I am very grateful to my students for being so patient as I explored my ideas – and prejudices – with them. The students I have taught have been mostly mature entrants, non-traditional students many of whom come from ethnic minority backgrounds. This year several students are in their fifties. Many of the students hold down jobs. They are nursery nurses or special needs assistants or childminders. They work in schools, day nurseries, family centres, neighbourhood nurseries, playgroups, or in out-of-school clubs or special schools. Some have unrelated jobs as security guards, or sales assistants, in order to finance their studies. Some have set themselves the goal of becoming teachers, and the early childhood degree offers them a route into teaching. They all have had a great deal of practical experience to draw on, but for many, there is a yawning gap between their experience and the academic expectations of a university. All the time they are concerned about relevance, the relevance of what they study to what they do.

Moreover, in bringing up children all sorts of experiences matter, and 'scientific' understandings of childhood are only part of the story. As Isaiah Berlin's quote above suggests, there are many facets of human experience which might be relevant in understanding everyday life. As he also said (in his very long-winded way), if understanding is confined to scientific generalizations, it misses what is most important about everyday life.

It [scientific understanding] must necessarily leave out of account
that vast number of small, constantly altering, evanescent colours . . .

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