Early Childhood Institutions as Loci of Ethical and Political Practice

By Moss, Peter | International Journal of Educational Policy, Research and Practice, Annual 2006 | Go to article overview

Early Childhood Institutions as Loci of Ethical and Political Practice


Moss, Peter, International Journal of Educational Policy, Research and Practice


Institutionalisation of Childhood: Possibilities and Risks

We are at a historical moment where it becomes urgent to raise the question: What are the possibilities for institutions created for children and young people? The historical process of the institutionalisation of childhood is in a period of intensification, as children enter institutions at ever earlier ages and remain in them for longer periods. This intensification presents great opportunities but also involves many risks since, as Foucault reminds us, everything is dangerous. A particular set of risks are produced from the increasing dominance of a particular discourse about early childhood. The dominant discourse threatens us with what Santos (2004) refers to as 'hegemonic globalisation', that is the successful globalisation of a particular local and culturally-specific discourse to the point that it makes universal truth claims and 'localises' all rival discourses.

What Is This Dominant Discourse?

The early childhood field is increasingly dominated by one particularly strong narrative, an Anglo-American narrative spoken in the English language, located in a liberal political and economic context, and dominated by certain disciplinary perspectives, in particular psychology, management and economics. This narrative has a distinct vocabulary, in which terms such as 'development,' 'quality' and 'outcomes' are prominent. Such terms generate particular problems, questions, and methods. The narrative is inscribed with the values and assumptions of modernity, for example objectivity, mastery, and universality, and with particular understandings of childhood, learning, evaluation, and so on.

The Anglo-American narrative is, if you will, a regime of truth about early childhood education and care as a technology for social stability and economic success. Early childhood institutions are understood first and foremost, as places of technical practice. Their workforce is seen as technicians, and young children as redemptive agents to be programmed to become a solution to certain problems arising from highly competitive market capitalism. This truth regime is highly instrumental and calculative in rationality, demonstrating a will to know or grasp the child by placing her within totalising systems of scientific theory and their attendant technologies and classifications. As a result of the dominant narrative, a public policy is produced which (as Prout observes) emphasises control, regulation, and surveillance (Prout, 2000).

Proliferating Discourses

It seems to me that the task confronting critical thinkers in early childhood today is to put a stutter in this dominant discourse, by denaturalising it and showing that it is not a necessity but a choice, or in Foucault's words,

   to show that things are not as self-evident as one believed, to see
   that which is accepted as self-evident will no longer be accepted
   as such ... since as soon as one can no longer think things as one
   formerly thought them, transformation becomes both very urgent,
   very difficult and quite possible. (1988: p.155)

An important part of the denaturalisation process is to offer other possibilities, other ways of thinking about institutions and the children within them, and other ways of practicing pedagogical work: in short, to proliferate a multiplicity of discourses.

The Rich Child and Children's Spaces: An Other Discourse

In my work over the last 10 years with a number of colleagues, I have been trying to create an other discourse through imagining an other possibility. I stress 'an' other, since it is important to try and resist replacing one dominant discourse, one narrative of necessity with another. That possibility starts from an image of the child: as an active subject, a multi-lingual creator of knowledge and identity from birth, connected in relations of interdependency with other children and adults, a citizen with rights, overall what Malaguzzi termed a 'rich child. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Early Childhood Institutions as Loci of Ethical and Political Practice
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.