Critical Perspectives on Childhood and Pedagogy (Spring, 2018)
Since the adoption of UN’s Rights of the Child in 1989, by all countries except the United States, the definition of “childhood” has spurred political and policy debate, new inquiry across the disciplines, and re-considerations of pedagogical strategies within childhood education. The new inquiry, often called “critical” childhood study, distances itself from the taken-for-granted, universalizing view of childhood that has been dominated by Western psychological and developmental perspectives. The pedagogical guidelines in the dominant models of early education in Euro-America are based on developmental milestones and skills that were identified as being important for children growing up and living in the United States.
Setting the context for the course is a focus on how childhood is influenced by broader processes of neoliberalism, globalization, institutionalization, consumerism, technological, and children/youth activism. Images of children and childhood are historically and socio-culturally constructed which permeate visual culture. A deeper examination of these images helps in understanding day-to-day relationships between adults and children, and about local educational theory and practice. Images of the child, notions of childhood, childrearing, and educational practices constructed within non-western cultural communities appear very different from the Euro-American images and often get ignored.
The course is particularly concerned with how global forces create postcolonial hybrid third spaces in classrooms within which hybrid pedagogies may emerge. Students will explore these practices in light of current ideologies about child-centeredness and demands for culturally relevant pedagogies (Gupta, 2013).
It is imperative for parents, teachers, administrators and policy makers working in the New York City school system to take into account the globally diverse backgrounds of students. Thus, course assignments and projects will be designed to work at two levels: 1) at the level of visual culture, challenging deficit, limiting and often damaging images of children and childhoods that diverge from Euro-American norms, and 2) at the classroom, pedagogical level.
In terms of visual culture, students will not only analyze and critique dominant constructions of childhood, but will also create new images and imaginings by remixing images on a social media platform, VoiceThread, and creating new images using a participatory Tumblr site. These remixed images will serve as a means to ask a broader public of teachers to answer back with videos, images, or texts that challenge stereotypes and taken-for-granted assumptions that limit or harm children’s lives and learning.
Students will also create a website/blog/online forum as a shared space for themselves as well as Pre-K teachers to showcase and discuss instances of child-centered pedagogy. Videos accompanied by narratives may be posted to examine questions like what does child-centeredness look like in a variety of classroom contexts? How are differences in cultural world views manifested in the adult-child relationship? How do teachers navigate the space between their own understanding and mainstream ideas on teaching and learning? How are ideas on child-centered learning and common core curricula brought together in a teacher’s practice? Underlying all these queries will be the attempt for graduate students and Pre-K teachers to recognize and identify a hybrid space that many teachers often encounter in their own classroom teaching. In this way the course will translate specialized research to a wider public.