While the foundation stage and Education Act 2002 bring new attention and resources to young children, a goal of early childhood professionals for years, the reforms are not unproblematic. These reforms exemplify circulating discourses placing young children in the domain of marketization, standardization, and surveillance. Legislation in the nineteenth, twentieth, and early twenty-first centuries regarding children is located within discourses such as “child,” “learning,” and “schooling.” The legislation is reflective as well as productive of the young citizen. There are multiple ways of being English and British that are part of national discourses. These ideas result in legislation written in order to control and to shape young citizens to be capital for the nation and to manage children constructed as dangerous outsiders, at risk and not of the “norm.”
The analysis of the grids of reasoning and ruptures in these grids through legislation and curriculum texts has provided a nuanced and complex view of the language in them and the taken-for-granted ideas that limit and shape innovations and reforms. The construction of the normal child and the dangerous outsider are a problematic part of the scientific, universal discourses that frame late twentieth- and early twenty-first-century education, including that for young children. In the words of Erica Burman, “How can we help in ways that do not require those whom we help to occupy a position of gratitude, or even to be or become more like ‘us’?” (2008, p. 217). These provocative questions along with a taking-apart of the language of disability, dangerous outsider, and “other” in both education policies and curricular ideas construct children who will never succeed while claiming that every child should be “above average.” If they are not “above average” then they or their families are the problem. One of the purposes of this chapter was to trouble this language in hope of opening new spaces for discussion and then for thinking about learning and schooling in new ways.
But the most important scholarly goal is to continue to critique, to ask questions, to look at capillaries of power that run through the new solutions, searching for the embedded discourses which continue the problems that the new solutions are proclaimed to solve.