Comparing the Pacific and the Rural Northeast? Meta-ethnographic Investigations of Citizenship(s) in Progressive ECE Programs

Allison Sterling Henward, Müge Olğun-Baytaş

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Many years ago, renowned education scholar Maxine Greene posed a question, equal parts challenge and promise: Could schools practicing and fostering cultural pluralism and equitable practices enact the Dewian ideal of a “great community”? With the rapidly changing demographics of the United States’ school-aged population of the early 21st century and the projected growth of “super-diverse” classrooms, Greene’s challenge has only increased in salience. This chapter draws on data from two year-long ethnographic studies conducted in two progressive, faith-based kindergarten classrooms in the United States. Using concepts from critical race theory concepts, the study analyzes how intended praxis (liberal universalism, color blindness, and justice) become realized for children who occupy privileged and marginalized spaces. Our findings demonstrate that democratic citizenship is learned in vastly different ways for different children in kindergarten classrooms. In each study, young children and, in one case, their teachers enacted practices that negated the intended, official democratic curriculum and reproduced local and societal inequities related to race, religion, nationality, and ethnicity. Our analysis raises significant concerns that many interpretations of early childhood progressive education premised on universal, liberal notions of citizenship may not adequately consider multilayered power relationships that can cause unintended consequences for classrooms and communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationInternational Perspectives on Educating for Democracy in Early Childhood
Subtitle of host publicationRecognizing Young Children as Citizens
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781000865769
ISBN (Print)9781032135007
StatePublished - Jan 1 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Social Sciences

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