Too much, too soon? Early learning and the erosion of childhood

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This article was downloaded by: [University of Southern Queensland]On: 05 October 2014, At: 03:43Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registeredoffice: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UKEducational Research and Evaluation:An International Journal on Theory andPracticePublication details, including instructions for authors andsubscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/nere20Too much, too soon? Early learning andthe erosion of childhoodAmanda French aa School of Education , University of Wolverhampton , Walsall , UKPublished online: 08 Oct 2012.To cite this article: Amanda French (2013) Too much, too soon? Early learning and the erosion ofchildhood, Educational Research and Evaluation: An International Journal on Theory and Practice,19:1, 91-92, DOI: 10.1080/13803611.2012.731184To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13803611.2012.731184PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLETaylor & Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all the information (theContent) contained in the publications on our platform. However, Taylor & Francis,our agents, and our licensors make no representations or warranties whatsoever as tothe accuracy, completeness, or suitability for any purpose of the Content. Any opinionsand views expressed in this publication are the opinions and views of the authors,and are not the views of or endorsed by Taylor & Francis. The accuracy of the Contentshould not be relied upon and should be independently verified with primary sourcesof information. Taylor and Francis shall not be liable for any losses, actions, claims,proceedings, demands, costs, expenses, damages, and other liabilities whatsoever orhowsoever caused arising directly or indirectly in connection with, in relation to or arisingout of the use of the Content.This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. Anysubstantial or systematic reproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing,systematic supply, or distribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden. Terms &Conditions of access and use can be found at http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditionshttp://www.tandfonline.com/loi/nere20http://www.tandfonline.com/action/showCitFormats?doi=10.1080/13803611.2012.731184http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13803611.2012.731184http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditionshttp://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditionsBOOK REVIEWSToo much, too soon? Early learning and the erosion of childhood, edited by RichardHouse, Stroud, Hawthorn Press, 2011, 337 pp., 20.00 (paperback), ISBN 978-1-907359-02-6This book fulfils the promise, made in its opening pages, to be a rich feast. Itoffers readers a huge range of chapters which cast a distinctive ideological andcritical eye over the audit-based, target-led strictures of the Early YearsFoundation Stage (EYFS) informing current early years provision in England.The sections on early years research are particularly interesting and timely, raisingas they do the question of the often vexed relationship between early years researchand the ways it has been used to inform government policy.The case the contributors make for a gentler, more child-led, holistic approach tochild development and early years provision is a familiar one, building as it does onSue Palmers notion of toxic childhood (2007); although rarely has this alternativeview been so comprehensively examined from so many different perspectives.Parents, early years practitioners, psychologists, neuroscientists, sociologists,educationalists academics, and campaigners are all represented, and, taken as awhole, their argument is a compelling one. In brief, they reject the over-regulationand bench-mark mentality of increasingly professionalised early years provision,and seek to replace it with the freedom to nurture and allow children to develop attheir own pace. This process involves empowering parents and resisting governmentmilestones, whilst simultaneously tolerating, even encouraging, differences betweenchildren and different ways of bringing them up.So far, so good. However, the book does not always address or evenacknowledge many of the wider issues thrown up by its approach. For example, ifparents (and more specifically mothers, who remain the primary carers of children inmodern British society) are to be encouraged to be more personally engaged in theirchildrens early years development, then there needs to be a complementary focusand critique, around the practicalities of realigning womens position in theworkplace to allow that engagement.There was also a tendency to elide class differences around child-rearing and thelived experiences of many children. This was at its most obvious in the chaptersdiscussing aspects of the over-regulation of childrens lives. Several articles critiquedthe colonisation of childhood by over-zealous parenting. Concerns includedhothousing childrens potential, both socially and academically, during pregnancyand beyond. All of which does more harm, it was argued, to feed parental paranoiathan actually further any childs development. This discussion, whilst valuable, needsto acknowledge that such preoccupations are predominately the preserve of affluent,middle-class parents. Indeed, one does not have to look far to see that there are someEducational Research and Evaluation, 2013Vol. 19, No. 1, 91999, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13803611.2012.731184Downloaded by [University of Southern Queensland] at 03:43 05 October 2014 very different poor parenting discourses operating round economically deprivedparents.There is a rather troubling anti-technology strand running through many of thearticles. Clearly, the proliferation of devices such as iPads, smartphones, and gamingconsoles has expanded the ways in which children can, and do, interact withtechnology from a very early age (just check out YouTube for endless clips oftechnologically savvy tots). However, too often the argument seemed to be thatchildren needed to be protected from the pernicious influence of the internet andvarious gaming cultures. This argument is just a little too reminiscent of the oldadage that children today watch too much TV and is probably just as pointless.Surely, the contemporary world has to be mediated by technology, if it is to beexperienced fully. We cannot go back to a time where children only read books.Digital literacies are here to stay and need to be recognised as complementary andadditional to the repertoire of literacies that children can and should draw on botheducationally and for their own pleasure, in a variety of ways.In conclusion, the book is a stimulating and accessible read. Its take on modernchildhood and early provision is thought-provoking and critically reflective.However, perhaps the most important and worrying question that the booksover-arching argument raises, is the idea that the modern, Western obsession withchildhood is a symptom of a wider cultural shift, towards increased governmentalityand regulation for all of us, irrespective of age.ReferencePalmer, S. (2007). Toxic childhood: How the modern world is damaging our children and what wecan do about it. London, UK: Orion.Amanda FrenchSchool of EducationUniversity of WolverhamptonWalsall, UKa.french@wlv.ac.uk 2013, Amanda Frenchhttp://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13803611.2011.731184Personal epistemology and teacher education, edited by Jo Brownlee, Gregory Schrawand Donna Berthelsen, London, Routledge, 2011, 310 pp., 85 (hardback), ISBN978-0-415-88356-6, 68 (Kindle version) ASIN B00872E84WThis important collection of recent articles draws together a wide range of researchfrom as diverse a cross-section of the world as The Netherlands, Cyprus, Australia,the United States, Canada, Norway, and Taiwan to provide an internationalperspective on teachers personal epistemology. It is the editors contention thatthere has been a lack of focus on how teachers personal epistemologies relate totheir teaching, and even less about teacher education. The articles have been chosenin order to bring together some of the key current arguments about how personalepistemology can be applied to the context of teacher education, foregrounding thelinks between the way a teacher believes they should teach, the way they actuallyteach in practice, and crucially the impact of these espoused and appliedBook reviews92Downloaded by [University of Southern Queensland] at 03:43 05 October 2014