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Feez S. Discipline and Freedom in Early Childhood Education. 2011.
Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://e-publications.une.edu.au/1959.11/9385
Discipline and Freedom in Early Childhood Education
The term discipline, in its etymology and everyday use, evokes both the structuring of knowledge into distinct specializations and the structured regulation of behaviour. The word itself derives from disciple, one who follows a revered teacher in order to learn from that teacher's knowledge and powers of self-regulation, often in the hope of achieving a transcendent freedom. In the domain of pedagogy, however, the term 'discipline' has often come to represent the restriction of freedom in relation to both what is learned and how it is learned. The provenance of the negative view of disciplinarity in the domain of pedagogy parallels the history of ideas underpinning educational reform movements that advocate 'progressive' approaches to education. While considerable variation can be found in the pedagogies that have emerged in the name of educational reform in this and earlier centuries, progressive pedagogies are described collectively as being child-centred, democratic, developmentally responsive and attuned to the experience and creative potential of individuals, as elaborated canonically by Cremin (1961). Furthermore, progressive pedagogies tend to be contrasted with 'traditional' approaches linked with the advent of mass schooling at the time of the Industrial Revolution and represented as autocratic, narrow, unresponsive and inequitable. Inhumane classroom practices associated with traditional pedagogy were perceived by many educational reformers to have been generated by the discipline which both structured knowledge and forced children, willing or not, to learn it in a prescribed way. The rejection of disciplinarity became institutionalized, especially in the early childhood sector across the English-speaking world, through the influence of official documents, such as the Plowden Report (1967), which promoted a model of pedagogy in which children had increased freedom to choose what to learn and how to learn it, while teachers were cast more peripherally in the role of facilitator. Such an approach, it was thought, would enable all students to become successful, independent and creative learners.