Readiness for School, Time and Ethics in Educational Practice

Studies in Philosophy and Education 38 (4):411-426 (2018)
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Abstract

‘Taking time seriously’ is an enduring human concern and questions about the nature of time bear heavily on the meaning of childhood. In the context of the continuing debates on readiness for school, ‘taking time seriously’ has contributed to policies on ‘early interventions’ which claim to support children in reaching their full potential but limit this potential when enacted in practice. Much of current policymaking takes the meaning of time for granted within a ‘quantitative’ view of time as a neutral, standardised parameter. In everyday educational practice, this view of time may lead to an excessive preoccupation with assessing standardised characteristics of ‘school ready’ children, who are expected to follow a uniform path of development predetermined by their biological clock. However, the quantitative view of time has been challenged both in philosophical and scientific thought by an understanding of time as complex, irreversible and emergent in the present. George Herbert Mead’s ‘philosophy of the present’ and Ilya Prigogine’s ‘arrow of time’ point to important implications of a ‘complex’ view of time for readiness for school as an event rather than a fixed set of characteristics that children should possess upon entry to primary school. Engaging in educational practice as it unfolds in the present also calls for ethics that are not focused on adhering to fixed moral universals but on our actions ‘here and now’ and attending to the ethical meaning that arises in children’s responses to our actions.

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