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Home arrow Geography arrow Global Perspectives on Human Capital in Early Childhood Education: Reconceptualizing Theory, Policy, and Practice


Knowing, Doing, and Being

Foucault, Gramsci, and Bakhtin are three theorists I have used to understand the impact of language in reflecting and mediating social action. In the context of curriculum inquiry, the domains of knowing, doing, and being may be seen in the life-course perspective and organize the purpose of curriculum through a paradigm of perennial analytic categories (Schubert, 1986). Recent curriculum critique for management professionals is that organizational leaders need to be, act, and know in a more holistic way to meet the challenges of contemporary global society (Datar, Garvin, & Cullen, 2010). Foucault, Gramsci, and Bakhtin are aligned with each curriculum domain and their explanations of power, and address developmental dynamics at each turn.

Regarding knowing I propose to use Foucault’s notion of govern- mentality for us to answer how the knowledge we acquire may be used for self-regulation. To add to dimensionality we can consider that parents use language and discourse to understand and define their roles and action related to the priority and experience they provide for their young children to grow. This is where the seeds of reproduction and extraction may take root as well as resistance and reflection on dominant concepts (Butler, 1997). There is evidence in developmental psychology that children may use language for selfregulation in and after early childhood to test, experience, and reinforce approaches to problems. Here educators and parents may have direct examples of rationales for experience, considering self-interest and social cohesion that demonstrate praxis, recursive thought, and action. A multidimensional approach for adults is to understand and interpret the children’s self-regulating speech in order to support and critique the process (Berk, 2001, p. 233). Adults may also introduce the idea of self-reflection to children to see if children are aware of this language process and how it impacts their knowing, doing, and being.

Regarding action and agency in doing I will use both Gramsci and Vygotsky as sources for understanding how the action of social groups impact learning and the experience of solidarity that may impact work, poverty, and parenthood. Here is an opportunity for us to see how language is used in the formation of doing; Gramsci offers a positive view that families and children experience social cohesion related to their class. Gramsci assumes a strong potential for humanism in human-capital and has strong links with Freire’s popular education (Borg & Mayo, 2006; Freire, 1970; Mayo, 1999; Zanoni, 2013b).

Vygotsky’s views on social interaction in the zone of proximal development can offer insight into how children see and respond to each other from the earliest social moments to engage and develop skills that are modeled by their peers (Berk, 2001; Gutierrez & Vossoughi, 2010; Gutierrez, Bien, Selland, & Pierce, 2011; Vygotsky, 1986).

Here we can see the shearing or cutting aspects of multidimensional discourse in that peers may challenge each other or adopt practices that promote violent resolution to conflict or idiosyncratic rationales for action in the world that are clearly wrong or do not reflect equity. These processes depict how meritocracy and “laws of the jungle” form in current social Darwinist contexts. We need theory to understand how these processes form over generations instantiating themselves in seemingly natural ways so that participatory inquiry may document, reflect upon, and confront assumptions and bases for action.

For being I consider Bakhtin and postcolonial theorists useful to understanding language around voice and addressivity of language for developing identity (Bakhtin, 1981; Hand et al., 2013; Peters, 2005). The position that Bakhtin offers us to consider dialogism and to trace the roots of voice to their component parts (Holquist, 1981). Language is used to express meaning and our thoughts are amalgams of what we have heard from others in the past and how we have incorporated and synthesized them to provide us meaning and a form of coherence. Bakhtin’s views help us see the importance of adults analyzing what they say and how it got that way in the process of understanding what is said to children to form their self-concepts and identities (Holland, Lachicotte, Skinner, & Cain, 2001). Here is a place for us to use theory to examine and critique how families’ and children’s identities are constructed to look and act toward the contemporary marketplace.

The multidimensional ecosocial aspect here is to examine the social history that created early childhood and its importance for identity necessitating children’s trajectories that directs their ambitions toward specific kinds of normativity, performance, and success. “Tiger mothers” need to be considered in this light since the intention and value of the tigress is to be harsh in order for her cubs to survive and thrive in the jungle (Rhee, 2013). There is a dimensional crossover here between governmentality and identity where the role and language of the parent is critical during early childhood to propel offspring for the aspiration toward a specific class. Bakhtin helps us see the trajectory of language moving toward meaning (Zanoni, 2008).

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