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


When Others Teach What Is Not Theirs, and It Is Done Unsatisfactorily, Can Storytelling be “Soothing”?

What is the result of relegating this vision of second language learning to the periphery of the academic discourse in foreign language education? Specifically, what happens when Spanish is appropriated by Others, namely, Americans academics, theoreticians, policy makers, and educators, and then reduced to its linguistic essence? What is the consequence of separating Spanish from its spirituality, making it scientifically available, and ultimately taught with the purpose of producing readily visible outcomes? I am inspired to ask these important questions after reviewing the idea of “instrumental rationality” in early childhood education (Dahlberg, Moss, & Pence, 2005), which tells us that early childhood education is still dominated by principles that produce immediately observable results. If we think about “Early Spanish Education,” namely, the teaching and learning of Spanish as a second language to American children, we can see the logic of instrumental rationality quite clearly: children should learn Spanish in order to speak, which reflects a measurable and attestable form of communication that is age appropriate. The utterance, or the verbalization of Spanish words, phrases, or hopefully dialogues, is seen as the ultimate goal for a Spanish teacher at the elementary level. Observable outcomes are desired and strongly promoted under the influence of teaching standards dictated by ACTFL (The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages). In some cases, this “object” to be acquired, that is, the ability to use correct Spanish vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation, is also promoted as a way to enhance future job prospects. This belief ignores the benefit of fostering, from very early on, a deep respect and understanding of people from Latin America where Spanish is overwhelmingly spoken.

With these questions in mind, my critique on Spanish education in elementary school years in the United States also reaches the dimension of educational research, specifically the role of the researcher in early childhood education. I pose the following questions: Are early childhood education researchers virtually summoned to perpetuate the commonsense by pledging allegiance to the dominant scientific paradigm that promotes the formation of versatile children (citizens)? How can we offer a critique of on the formation of an American bilingual child, or a child who is capable of speaking an additional language besides English? In a previous writing (Azocar, 2014), I have discussed the fusion of the role of researcher and storyteller specifically in early childhood education. In doing so, I am following the tradition of arts-based research (Barone & Eisner, 2006). I contend that it is useful to craft fictionalized stories as a methodology of research: stories that are derived from observable social phenomena in the classrooms. By using storytelling, the researcher in early childhood education is able to portray the experience of subjectivity construction and simultaneously project a message of dissent to the reader (Clough, 2002; Goodley, 2004). Indeed, unveiling the construction of subjects under the dominance of educational discourse is a political duty for present-day early childhood education researchers. By resorting to the use of storytelling, the researcher/narrator/ storyteller becomes a defiant agent of change and, hopefully, is able to promote the interruption of subjectivity construction of the child as an ideal future citizen. In practical terms, storytelling allows the researcher to explore new venues of expression that defy the rigid canons of academic writing that call for objectivity, reliability, and scientific accuracy. The aim, therefore, becomes a practical one: to make the dissent available to a wide audience via stories. Sandelowski (1994) clearly states these principles when she claims the following:

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