14 SES 10 B, Concerted Cultivation in a Cross -Cultural Perspective (Part 2)
Symposium continued from 14 SES 09 B
This paper is based on ethnographic fieldwork in daycare institutions and families in Denmark and Singapore. It is part of a larger research project focusing on the transition from kindergarten to primary school. The project investigates how parents and preschool teachers cooperate in making children school ready. How do teachers and parents negotiate the meaning of school readiness and what kind of practice do they expect from each other in the process of getting children ready for school? In the Danish material, our research points to a clear change from “natural growth” to “concerted cultivation” (Lareau 2003). 20 years ago, the child was to a higher degree perceived as maturing ‘naturally’, 'by itself'. Previously, educators would comfort parents before school start and say: 'it will come, just give the child time to play', whereas today, we hear them say: 'If we, in the kindergarten, do such and such, and you, at home, do such and such, then it (school readiness) will probably come '. Among parents and educators, we have identified a general narrative on how children get school ready at the last minute. 'A lot has happened with the child the last six months’, we are typically told. Half a year before starting school neither parents nor educators perceive the child as completely ready, but then the maturation process seems to accelerate. This is interpreted by both parties as a result of the good cooperation and the concerted work on making the child ready. In Singapore, significant changes are also taking place. Whereas 20 years ago, parents and teachers agreed that school readiness was a question of sustained academic training and disciplining both at home and in pre-school, today educators and politicians warn parents against ‘over teaching pre-school children’, and urge parents to relax and let their ‘children have their childhood’, with time to play. This cannot, however, be interpreted as the reverse process from “concerted cultivation” to “natural growth”. Rather it should be seen as a development from ’double disciplining’ to “concerted cultivation”, where play is understood as purposeful. Theoretically the paper combines Norbert Elias’ concept of civilising processes with Lareau’s notion of “concerted cultivation” (2003) and suggest we talk of concerted civilising processes (Bach 2014). The paper also discusses these notions in relation to Parenting Culture Studies (Faircloth et al 2014), where childrearing is seen as an increasingly individualized task that parents are held fully accountable for.
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