Sexualities matters in early childhood education : the management of children/bodies and their unsettling desires.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Teaching and Learning
This qualitative study explored teacher talk and practice about and around sexuality in early childhood education. The study focused on the operation of teacher discourses of sexuality within early childhood centres, and the subsequent regulation of sexualities. Open-ended individual interviews and a group interview were conducted with three teachers. In an analysis of the interview findings, the teachers' talk and practice about and around sexuality is placed within a wider framework of heteronormativity. The context of heteronormativity serves to create barriers to, and/or narrow options for teachers' talk and practice about and around sexuality, while reducing opportunities for acknowledgement of diverse identities. Any such reduction sits uneasily alongside both prevailing liberal discourses demanding recognition of difference and diversity, and the inclusive ideals central to the national early childhood curriculum: Te Whaariki: He Whaariki Maatauranga moo ngaa Mokopuna 0 Aotearoa. Early Childhood Curriculum (Ministry of Education, 1996b). Connections between teachers' talk and practice, heteronormativity, and Foucault's concepts of power, surveillance and normalisation are explored. Three key findings are discussed. The first key finding suggests that children/bodies and sexuality are centred as normal by and through discourse. The second key finding suggests that the teachers' talk and practice consciously or sub-consciously, takes up, enacts and is governed by particular discourses as a form of regulation of sexuality. Regulation of sexuality transpired through the practice of specific management strategies. The third finding draws attention to the endpoints of discourses that centre and manage - the marginalisation, resistance towards, and silencing of sexuality in early childhood education; and, the marginalisation of children/bodies. These endpoints highlight absences that make problematic both teachers' talk and practice focused on children's learning about sexuality, and the expression of, and honouring of, sexualities. The study findings, in troubling notions of sexuality and accepted pedagogical practices in early childhood education, raise questions about the implications of discourses that are productive of marginalising endpoints and absences. A case is put forward for 'being bad' and risk taking for both the teacher in the early childhood centre, and within pre-service teacher education, in order to create new possibilities for inclusion and to enable a way forward in relation to sexualities matters.