Media and cultural studies - now in preschool!

So we're looking at preschools for September for my older son. One doesn't want to get hysterical about which preschool he attends, but it does matter. We've rejected Montessori as too discouraging of imaginative play. (The are some data, and my intuition tells me, that imaginative play is pretty damn important at 2-3 years old.) Academic-instruction-style preschools are a no-go.

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.


  1. Send them a copy of Dr. Alan Sokal's Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity. It should be right up their alley.

  2. This might seem a tad unconventional, and I don't know the demographics in your area, but if you can you can send your child to a pre-school that is in a non English language. I sent my two sons to a Spanish language pre-school (that was overwhelmingly filled with Hispanics) for the exposure to Spanish. They do the same things as English language pre-schools. And with adequate reinforcement at home, your kids can become bi-lingual in no time.


  3. Charo,

    I'm TOTALLY into bilingual education, or some kind of language immersion. The only one is about 20 minutes away, which means two 40-minute commutes a day. We're debating whether it is worth it.

  4. And Gadfly,

    I think it would be if it could penetrate their liminal spaces and trangress hegemonic ideologies.