The preschool I liked best turned out to be something called a Reggio Emilia preschool. Never heard of it before, but the philosophy seems up our alley - structured imaginative play, dress-up, paint, blocks, long-term projects, following the children's interests, problem-solving, story-telling, cooking, whatever. And the kids seemed especially happy.
But in the extremely expensive Reggio Emilia preschool in our area (not the one we've chosen), this was part of the description of the approach:
In the USA particularly, the experiences of the city of Reggio Emilia have been reified into the "Reggio Emilia Approach", a new curriculum model of excellence, which heavily reinforces existing instrumental developmentalist discourses of education. This 'branding' of Reggio Emilia, obscures the postmodern accent in the dialogues that the pedagogues of Reggio Emilia have attempted to establish. Critiques of the US 'Reggio Approach' which have targeted attempts to establish normative Reggio 'curricula' have largely been ignored. The work in Sweden by Gunilla Dahlberg, and her UK colleague, Peter Moss, provide unsettling counterpoints to the monolithic arguments of the proponents of the 'Reggio Approach'
All of a sudden, I'm back in undergrad in a cultural studies class. Reified? Discourses? Do we really need academese BS to talk about a frickin' preschool? The approach seems nice. There's a lot of art and play and socializing and the kids get to work on projects. That seems good for them. Can we cut the theorizing? It took me about four reads to figure out what the damn paragraph was even saying. I think it means that there shouldn't really be a set curriculum for Reggio Emilia, but that seems to have happened in the U.S. Reggio Emilia schools. I am of the opinion that there are simpler, less pretentious ways to say this. This kind of writing and thinking is exactly why I left film studies.
Oddly, the site never goes on to make the case that this particular (extremely expensive!) Reggio Emilia school has avoided the horrendous fate that seems to have beset other Reggio Emilia preschools. So the reader is left wondering if she is sending one's child to one of the bastard U.S. Reggio Emilia schools.