Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood
ISSN 1463-9491


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Volume 14 Number 1 2013

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CONTENTS [click on author's name for abstract and full text]

 

SPECIAL ISSUE
In Conversation with Jonathan Silin
Guest Editors: CRISTYN DAVIES & ANTHONY SEMANN
 

Cristyn Davies & Anthony Semann. Editorial, pages 1‑7 http://dx.doi.org/10.2304/ciec.2014.14.1.1 VIEW FULL TEXT OPEN ACCESS

Anthony Semann, Cristyn Davies & Jonathan Silin. In Conversation with Jonathan Silin: past, present and future, pages 8‑11 http://dx.doi.org/10.2304/ciec.2014.14.1.8 VIEW FULL TEXT OPEN ACCESS

Susan Grieshaber. The Scholarship of Jonathan Silin: a reading through the lens of sexuality, pages 12‑13

Janet Robertson. The Intentional Archivist: what Jonathan taught me, pages 14‑15

AT A LOSS
Jonathan Silin. At a Loss: scared and excited, pages 16‑23

Peter Bansel. Losing Oneself and Finding the Other: a response to Jonathan Silin, pages 24‑28

Karen Martin. ‘At a Loss: scared and excited’: a response to Jonathan Silin, pages 29‑31

Clare Britt. Loss, Failure, and an Awful Reputation: a response to Jonathan Silin, pages 32‑38

RECONCEPTUALISING FAMILY
Cristyn Davies & Kerry H. Robinson. Reconceptualising Family: negotiating sexuality in a governmental climate of neoliberalism, pages 39‑53

Jonathan Silin. What Makes a Queer Family Queer? A Response to Cristyn Davies and Kerry Robinson, pages 54‑59

Amy Chapman & Sue Saltmarsh. The Politics of Normative Childhoods and Non-Normative Parenting: a response to Cristyn Davies and Kerry Robinson, pages 60‑65

Lucy Hopkins. Innocence, Protection and Failure: bringing the child subject to the centre of the politics of the family. A Response to Cristyn Davies and Kerry Robinson, pages 66‑71

HETERONORMATIVITY IN ONLINE INFORMATION ABOUT SEX
Damien W. Riggs. Heteronormativity in Online Information about Sex: a South Australian case study, pages 72‑80

Kerry H. Robinson. Building Respectful Relationships Early: educating children on gender variance and sexual diversity. A Response to Damien Riggs, pages 81‑87

Kellie Burns. Normative ‘Sexual’ Knowledge and Critique as a Mode of Resistance: a response to Damien Riggs, pages 88‑93

Robert Payne. ‘But What About the Dinosaurs?’: a response to Damien Riggs, pages 94‑98

COLLOQUIUM
Vivian Tackie-Ofosu & Kwesi Bentum. Quality versus Quantity: the use of observation by early childhood educators in improving the performance of children enrolled in preschool programs in Ghana, pages 99‑103

BOOK REVIEWS
Off Limits: a parent’s guide to keeping kids safe from sexual abuse (Sandy Wurtele & Feather Berkower), and Smart Parenting for Safer Kids (Freda Briggs), reviewed by Prue Deane and Kerryann Walsh, pages 104‑108 http://dx.doi.org/10.2304/ciec.2014.14.1.104 VIEW FULL TEXT




The Scholarship of Jonathan Silin: a reading through the lens of sexuality

http://dx.doi.org/10.2304/ciec.2014.14.1.12

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While Jonathan Silin’s ideas have challenged early childhood educators to think seriously about the relationship between developmentalism and revisioning early education, they have done much more than this. They also challenge us to know who we are and how our identities might be enacted in our teacher-selves, whether in the classroom with young children, teacher education students or engaging professionally with teachers. In doing so he shows how to resist injustice and unmasks ways in which institutions function in society to marginalise and exclude.

 

The Intentional Archivist: what Jonathan taught me

http://dx.doi.org/10.2304/ciec.2014.14.1.14

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The possibilities of intentionally archiving events is explored as an extension of Dr Silin’s discussion of loss, memory and social amnesia, from the perspective of a practitioner.

 

At a Loss: scared and excited

http://dx.doi.org/10.2304/ciec.2014.14.1.16

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Drawing on the author’s struggle to come to terms with multiple personal losses, his observations of young children in early childhood classrooms, and work with novice teachers, this essay points to the generative possibilities embedded in moments of disorienting loss. Constrained by traditional templates of mourning that did not reflect the lived experience of on-going grief, he found himself turning to writing as a recuperative strategy that enabled him to better understand what had been and to shed preconceptions of how it should be when we are ambushed by life. At the same time, he was prompted to reflect on the ways that children first begin to use play and spoken language to seek solace and meaning from moments of seeming abandonment. Ironically, coming to embrace and organize pain on paper allowed him to understand how learning lies at the heart of every loss and how new, unfamiliar ways of being in the world can open up even as we grieve the known, familiar and much loved.

 

Losing Oneself and Finding the Other: a response to Jonathan Silin

http://dx.doi.org/10.2304/ciec.2014.14.1.24

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In responding to Jonathan Silin’s article ‘At a Loss: Scared and Excited’, the author takes up his invitation to articulate a relationship between the personal and the professional, and contemplates the autobiographical as more than a mode of recounting one’s own experience. In so doing he foregrounds possibilities for working with an autobiographical account of experience as both a self-reflexive research method and a site for learning about oneself and others. The author situates autobiography as a generative space in and from which one might theorise the self, with the express purpose of simultaneously understanding something of the other. He uses a personal experience of loss as an intellectual resource in order to theorise: the formation of the self in and over time and space; the normative practices through which selves and their experience are made intelligible and recognisable; the relational character of recognition; and the possibilities of narrative for developing an ethic of solicitude and care. In thinking what this theorising might mean for early childhood education he gives an account of the ontological, epistemological and pedagogical implications of loss.

 

‘At a Loss: scared and excited’: a response to Jonathan Silin

http://dx.doi.org/10.2304/ciec.2014.14.1.29

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This response to Jonathan Silin’s article employs personal narrative to engage with learning and loss in early childhood education. For the author, in Jonathan Silin sharing his stories of loss, he also tells the author’s stories of loss. For the author, these shared experiences are the ‘very means by which we learn about loss; about grieving; about pain; about being social; about being human; about being relational. We learn how limited terms like ‘resilience’ are; we learn more about ourselves and we certainly learn more about the others in our lives.’

 

Loss, Failure, and an Awful Reputation: a response to Jonathan Silin

http://dx.doi.org/10.2304/ciec.2014.14.1.32

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In this article the author responds to Jonathan Silin’s article ‘At a Loss: Scared and Excited’, and in doing so, takes up his ideas around the generative potential of loss. She uses these notions of loss to illuminate how, in one diverse school community in Australia, loss, failure and an ‘awful reputation’ have opened up spaces for re-imagining multiple, heterogeneous, (im)possible student subjectivities and have allowed room for seeking out pedagogical practices centred around complexity, connectedness, authenticity and uncertainty.

 

Reconceptualising Family: negotiating sexuality in a governmental climate of neoliberalism

http://dx.doi.org/10.2304/ciec.2014.14.1.39

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Based on qualitative research, this article examines the complex kinship relations involved in constructing queer families. The discussion focuses on the heterogeneity of queer families; the difficulties encountered in association with processes of recognition and how this is negotiated across different contexts within queer families, extended families, and bureaucracies; how sexual subjectivities are articulated within the context of ‘family’; and concerns raised by queer families in relation to children’s early schooling. Of particular importance to this discussion is awareness that in a governmental climate of neoliberalism, there are contradictory and competing discourses about queer subjectivities, the child, and constructions of family. The queer subject is frequently and increasingly positioned as a targeted consumer and this consumption extends to accessing foster care, adoption, reproductive technologies, the healthcare system, and education. However, despite the invitation to queer families to be consumers in these contexts, the normative family is still viewed as heterosexual, with queer families continuing to be excluded and rendered invisible in representations of family. Taking up Jonathan Silin’s earlier call to educators of young children, the authors argue that children’s early education needs to include difficult knowledge and subjugated knowledges. Early education should include knowledge about different kinds of kinship relations including queer families, non-biological formations of family, including fostering and adoption, and alternative reproductive practices and technologies through which many young children are now conceived. Currently, most early childhood education and primary school curricula in Australia do not reflect the reality of many young children’s lives. Educating all children and youth about alternative families and sexuality is critical to children becoming socially informed citizens and politically active members of their communities who can participate in creating alternative and more equitable futures.

 

What Makes a Queer Family Queer? A Response to Cristyn Davies and Kerry H. Robinson

http://dx.doi.org/10.2304/ciec.2014.14.1.54

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In this essay I respond to Cristyn Davies and Kerry Robinson’s research on queer families by remarking on the distance GLBTQI people have travelled in the last half century. I raise critical questions about the potential gains and possible losses that may result from bringing heretofore subjugated knowledges into the school curriculum. Drawing on my own biography, I also interrogate the radical edge that our outsider status once allowed us, the rapid normalization of gay life, and the foreclosure of options which that normalization has brought. Finally, I pose a distinction between non-traditional and queer families as a prompt to further investigation of how vectors of identity such as class, race, ethnicity, and religion intersect with the choices people make about constructing families and raising children.

 

The Politics of Normative Childhoods and Non-Normative Parenting: a response to Cristyn Davies and Kerry Robinson

http://dx.doi.org/10.2304/ciec.2014.14.1.60

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This article offers a consideration of the ways that the politics of normative childhoods are shaped by discourses of happiness predicated on heteronormativity. Responding to the work of Cristyn Davies and Kerry Robinson (2013, this issue), the authors argue that non-normative families and in particular, non-normative parenting, are obliged to secure, protect and police their children’s perceived entitlements to normative ‘happy’ childhoods in order to achieve social legitimacy. Such obligations, they contend, locate non-normative parents and families, rather than societies, as responsible for the effects of discriminatory social norms to which they are subjected. Informed by the work of Jonathan Silin, the authors support a politics of childhood that gives discursive legitimacy to children’s voice and experience regarding the ways in which normativity is enforced at their and their families’ expense.

 

Innocence, Protection and Failure: bringing the child subject to the centre of the politics of the family. A Response to Cristyn Davies and Kerry Robinson

http://dx.doi.org/10.2304/ciec.2014.14.1.66

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In response to Davies and Robinson’s article looking at how queer families are positioned and position themselves in relation to neoliberalism, this article brings the child to the centre of the debate to examine how reading the child subject in terms of discourses of innocence and protection might work to maintain the hegemony of the normative – that is, heterosexual, nuclear – family, and close down discussions of alternative family structures. In exploring how the child subject is positioned in relation to these ideas, the article draws on Judith Butler’s reworking of Adorno’s notion of ‘ethical violence’ to suggest that the constraining of possibilities for the constitution of children’s subjectivities by limiting their access to ‘difficult knowledges’ around sexuality can be read as a kind of violence to the child subject. Turning to the children’s voices that emerge from Davies and Robinson’s research, it argues that children’s failure to enact the position of the innocent child can be seen as a productive or generative space from which to begin to question the terms of this specious positioning. Thus, the article suggests that both the acknowledgement of borderwork as ethically violent towards the child, and the failure of the child to conform to the discourse of innocence together work to destabilise the normative positioning of the heterosexual, nuclear family.

 

Heteronormativity in Online Information about Sex: a South Australian case study

http://dx.doi.org/10.2304/ciec.2014.14.1.72

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Whilst sex education in Australia has moved beyond a focus solely on abstinence, it is still in many instances shaped by what Silin refers to as the ‘silences’ that accompany topics considered unspeakable to young people. The present article focuses specifically on one such silence, namely the representation of non-heterosexual sexualities and non-gender-normative people in the context of sex education. By focusing on three South Australian websites that act as first ports of call in terms of information about sex and sex education to young people and their parents, the analysis provided suggests that two of the three websites evoke a range of heteronormative and gender-normative assumptions, with one of these sites more explicitly emphasising reproductive heterosex, and the other adopting a liberal approach that nonetheless fails to adequately challenge stereotypes about non-heterosexuality and non-gender normativity. The third site, by contrast, provides relatively progressive inclusion of a range of genders and sexualities, and addresses homophobia and its effects. The article concludes by suggesting that websites providing information about sex to young people and their parents must make a substantive shift away from perpetuating the silencing of marginal sexualities and genders, and towards contributing to open public discussion about young people and sex.

 

Building Respectful Relationships Early: educating children on gender variance and sexual diversity. A Response to Damien Riggs

http://dx.doi.org/10.2304/ciec.2014.14.1.81

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This article, which is a response to Damien Riggs’ article, ‘Heteronormativity in Online Information about Sex: A South Australian Case Study’, focuses on three main areas relevant to children’s early education in this area. Firstly, it is important to increase parents’, educators’, and children’s awareness of gender variance or gender diversity in children’s and young people’s lives. Gender variance is becoming increasingly visible, including in schooling, with some children and young people experiencing hostile reactions to their gender transgressions from their peers and also from some adults. Secondly, it is vital that the development of children’s sexual citizenship and building respectful relationships starts early in children’s lives through open and comprehensive sex and sexualities education in online, schooling, and family contexts. Attempts to include the development of knowledge and skills in building and maintaining respectful relationships and exploring the factors that influence gender and sexual identities in children’s early education are hindered by discourses of childhood innocence. The third main area discussed is, in order to effectively address sex and sexualities education in children’s lives, there is a need to address these issues in a collaborative manner between early childhood educators and families.

 

Normative ‘Sexual’ Knowledge and Critique as a Mode of Resistance – a response to Damien Riggs

http://dx.doi.org/10.2304/ciec.2014.14.1.88

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In this response to Damien Riggs’ analysis of sex education websites, the author draws on Foucault’s understanding of knowledge, power and governmentality to understand how some forms of knowledge about sex and sexuality become normalised ‘official knowledge’ that frame institutional policies and practices and shape everyday discourses. Foucault provides a framework for analysing sexuality as a modality of government that produces and manages what types of knowledge are, or are not, ‘knowable’ about sex, gender and sexuality. The author then considers the implications for those who are marginalised or silenced in ‘official’ knowledge cultures of this kind. Theory, she argues, provides tools for disrupting normative knowledge about childhood sexuality, which frames educational practices and everyday discourses.

 

‘But What about the Dinosaurs?’: a response to Damien Riggs

http://dx.doi.org/10.2304/ciec.2014.14.1.94

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This article is written in response to the work of Damien Riggs, providing a critical reading of his analysis of the inherent homophobia and gender normativity present in a selection of sexuality education websites targeted at children. Taking up the productive possibilities of both silences and narrative disruptions, the author examines a moment of unlearning from his own educational practice alongside a reading of the film Tomboy (dir. Sciamma, 2011) in which a narrative of gender development is plotted around contingency, lack of explanation and emergence. In contrast to Riggs’ call for ‘proactive’ strategies of inclusiveness as a way of countering the closing down of sex and gender conversations among children, the author reconsiders the childlike capacities of adults and thus aims to destabilise privileged constructions of adulthood.

 

Quality versus Quantity: the use of observation by early childhood educators in improving the performance of children enrolled in preschool programs in Ghana

http://dx.doi.org/10.2304/ciec.2014.14.1.99

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In the current study, the authors explored how early childhood educators used observation to support children in the learning environment. The objectives set were to find out the observation methods teachers used, ascertain their understanding of child observation, find out activities children undertook, and how teachers documented what children did and said during play activities. A qualitative, explorative, descriptive and contextual design, using in-depth interviews, focus group discussion and photography, was considered appropriate for this research. Three main themes emerged in this study: Teachers or Playmates?, Observation as in Supervision, and Observation or Resources? The results of the study revealed that supervision of activities that children engaged in was equated to observation. Lack of observational skills, resources, and poor record keeping emerged as areas of concern. Implications for child development are rooted in the need for teachers to recognize the educational needs of children via observation and to develop appropriate strategies to address identified needs.

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