I read Veronica Pacini-Ketchabaw and Larry Prochner’s Introduction to Re-Situating Early Childhood Education. I love that they are taking a critical look at how early childhood is done in Canada. A couple years ago, I would have never thought there was a reason to do early childhood differently, but since starting my masters, I have taken some post-colonial theory and anti-oppressive education classes that have really opened my eyes to the systemic oppression evident throughout our education institutions.
To be completely honest, I battle this idea of changing ECE. To be “developmentally appropriate” is something I am proud of as I teach primary. I am very passionate about play-based learning, and learner centred environments. I see “success” in the way I have been teaching, and I believe in it. Challenging traditional paper centred classroom environments would be quite a bit easier for me then challenging the way ECE is thought of. To buy in, my entire pedagogy needs to change, and thankfully it has been… slowly… but surely.
Reggio Emilia is a play-based early childhood approach that claims to be based in neuroscience. I have used this style of teaching/learning to inform my own practice over the years.
An example of this is shown through a story that happened this past year. I was teaching grade one at W.S. Hawrylak School. I often dismiss students from the carpet by what colour they are wearing. “Whoever is wearing blue, go wash your hands for lunch… Whoever is wearing red go line up etc.” One day I dismissed any students who were wearing the colour black. One student piped up and said, “My skin is black! Can I go?” I sort of stumbled over my words and said, “No, we just do coloured clothes” or something like that, and left it. When sharing this story with my professor, Carol Schick, she challenged me to acknowledge what the child was doing in recognizing race. She encouraged me to affirm that child’s statement of race next time rather than ignore it. This seemingly made a lot of sense. I shouldn’t pretend like we don’t see race and we only see clothing colours. We do see race, and acknowledging it is a simple initial step to combatting racism. This was only one of the few “ah-ha” moments I have had as my knowledge has been increasing around post-colonial issues/structures.
What the book’s introduction started to clarify for me was that it’s not that the learning happening in ECE that is bad, it’s the system of learning that needs critiquing. We need to think critically around the institutionalizing of learning. Education has valued early learning, but only through a neo-liberalistic lens; “Investments are made with an expectation of future benefit” (p.5, 2013). Basically we are investing and feeding into early childhood as a part of “the system” expecting/encouraging it to produce and support that very system. (One in which is based in capitalism of course.)
The authors also call out the binary/dualistic thinking that permeates early childhood education. These discourses are based in power, surveillance, and regulation. “Reconceptualist scholars remind us, these [binary] distinctions are contingent upon dualistic conceptions of power and, as such, they are problematic” (p.7, 2013). I think it’s Canella who suggests that childhood itself is a constructed concept. It allows the adult to become a powerful body, and the child to be seen as vulnerable. When we look at these issues from a re-conceptualist point of view, we are encouraged to change perspectives and come at them from a strength based approach; “This fluid and strength based approach de-establishes the developmental psychology perspective of the unified, rational, vulnerable child” (p.6, 2013).
One question I have is how does this knowledge challenge educators to approach planning/viewing/co-creating space in a strength based way for children?
How do we re-conceptualize Regina’s ECE’s power issues in regards to language, heteronormativity, and race specifically?
In what ways can educators disrupt capitalism and colonialism while still working within the common local framework of a play-based/developmentally driven childcare environment? Does this mean that classrooms should not include grocery store/post office centres for example?
I know that these musings will only be the beginning of what comes out during this class, but I am excited to dive into the work of post-colonialism through the lens of early childhood education.