Loris Malaguzzi and the schools of Reggio Emilia: telling an alternative narrative about early childhood education
Today’s early childhood education is dominated in the Anglophone world by a particular narrative, what I have termed the ‘story of quality and high returns’, which is technical, instrumental and economistic, but also reductionist, naïve and governing, a story that is the product of an era of neoliberalism. That narrative, I will argue, is contested by the work of Loris Malaguzzi and the municipal schools of Reggio Emilia, offering an alternative narrative (not the alternative narrative), what I have called ‘the story of ‘democracy, experimentation and potentiality’. I will set out some key features of the story: education as a political practice, requiring political choices in response to political questions; the image of the ‘rich’ child and the need of a ‘rich’ pedagogy for this ‘rich’ child; the school for young children as a living centre of democratic culture and not a ‘school of preparation’; fundamental values that include democracy and cooperation, experimentation and wonder; evaluation as a process of participatory democracy; a distinctive vocabulary for telling an alternative narrative; and the possibility of enacting an alternative narrative if the right conditions are put in place. The issue of ‘right conditions’ seems to me crucial and often overlooked when considering Reggio’s experience; I will focus on one of these conditions, the need for an integrated 0-6 system offering public education as a universal right (with ‘childcare’ as a necessary but secondary purpose). I will end by confronting the dilemma of those who want to tell an alternative narrative and enact transformative change, at a time when the story of quality and high returns is so dominant, drawing my inspiration from the neoliberal godfather Milton Friedman, writing in the 1960s: “Only a crisis – actual or perceived – produces real change. When that crisis occurs the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable”.
This event will take place at The Bishop Strachan School, 298 Lonsdale Rd. Toronto. It is free for members, but you must register in advance. Light refreshments will be available, and Parentbooks will have several of Peter Moss’s books available for purchase, including Loris Malaguzzi and the Schools of Reggio Emilia.
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