In this, the first issue of another new year in the third millennium, we begin with an eclectic mix of interesting articles. They not only reflect the multidisciplinary and dynamic nature of early childhood as a discipline, but also the strength of the field in times of uncertainty and confusion. Now in its third year, it is timely to consider the range and impact of a journal such as Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood. Our origins came from discontent with traditional views of young children, their families, early childhood education and a need for a discussion arena for ideas that we considered essential as we entered the new millennium. The articles that have been published in the journal have been at the forefront of new thinking in early childhood education and we continue to seek articles that challenge early childhood educators and all those who interact with young children and their families in a variety of contexts.
In the first article, Sally Lubeck & Adrianna Kezar interrogate constructions of Head Start as an organisation. They use data from interviews with Head Start members from seven grantee agencies to discuss the ways in which each context provides different perspectives for viewing Head Start as an organisation. From the interviews with the staff members, Lubeck & Kezar show that the alternative frames that they offer elucidate the ways in which we create and are constructed by the social milieu in which Head Start programmes operate. The article argues that such frames provide new and effective possibilities for how Head Start could be organised, with implications for programme improvements.
Marilyn Fleer surveyed a large number of Australian early childhood educators who worked in various contexts related to early childhood education. Her article outlines the need for policy to be based on empirical data and for research efforts in the discipline to be coordinated. Fleer makes the point that although early childhood policy-makers around the world have identified the need for evidence-based research, we need to consider what early childhood professionals see as important research projects.
In the next article, Lourdes Soto & Beth Swadener undertake an extensive literature review that is aimed towards liberatory early childhood theory, research and praxis. They consider the role of critical pedagogy in early childhood education and for the purpose of the literature review, identify six loosely connected categories that represent the changing landscape of early childhood education. The article concludes with a discussion of social justice and liberatory praxis as a space in which there are new possibilities for hybridity in theorising, researching and enacting early childhood education.
Sue Dockett & Bob Perry ask, 'Who is ready for what?' in relation to starting school in the state of New South Wales, Australia. The article begins with a brief survey of research about school readiness and discusses four different views of readiness. It then reports results of a survey conducted with children, parents and educators about their concepts of school readiness. A range of responses serves to highlight the varying nature of experiences for different children, making context a pivotal feature of concepts about readiness. Different people (children, parents and teachers) have different understandings and expectations about being ready for school, and look for different things as indicators that children are prepared for school.
In a contribution from Norway, Jeanette Rhedding-Jones uses anecdotes, documents and personal experiences to identify how childhoods are ethnicised by children, adults, texts and discourses. She believes we need further understanding about how this happens, particularly in relation to the influence of dominant religious, ethnic, language and literacy practices. The premise attached to such critical understanding is that change can then occur, and Rhedding-Jones provides some unique ideas about how this might be approached.
Margaret Sims, Teresa Hutchins & Chris Dimovich discuss a disturbing practice that is occurring in childcare centres in Western Australia. They researched the experiences of childcare workers aged 14-16 years. Employing these workers violates the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The workers were placed in positions where they were engaged in menial tasks and were often left alone in charge of young children. The authors argue that the young workers could have made a valuable contribution as adjunct assistants, and that this would have had benefits for both the workers and the young children in their care. Other issues discussed in the article include the health and welfare of the young employees, ways in which they were disempowered, and the need for clear specification of responsibilities in regulations.
In the first colloquium, Jackie Marsh responds to the article by Levin & Rosenquest (in this journal, Volume 2, Number 2, 2001). This is followed by Liz Jones, who takes Derrida, a deconstruction theorist, into the English nursery school to open possibilities for creating spaces for thinking differently about young children's stories.
Three book reviews complete this issue. Sandra Lennox writes about Play and Literacy in Children's Worlds by Bronwyn Beecher & Leonie Arthur (2001). In the second review, Courtney C. Bentley Ewald considers Hands Off: the disappearance of touch in the care of children, written by Richard T. Johnson (2000). Finally, Anne Wilks contemplates Experiencing Reggio Emilia: implications for pre-school provision, edited by Lesley Abbott & Cathy Nutbrown (2001).