Kindergarten in Common: Early Education in England and the USA, 1850-1975
Kristen Dombkowski Nawrotzki

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



Roehampton University

Primary Discipline

Over the last 150 years, the field of early childhood education (ECE) has developed as an international phenomenon, and is based upon supposedly universal principles of child development. Yet, when examined closely, programs of ECE appear to be nation- and culture-specific. So, to what degree is the development of early childhood pedagogy and policy culturally relative or nation-based? How have different nations historically come to grips with educational innovations, such as the kindergarten, which claim to understand children and the learning process in a universal way? These are the questions addressed by my postdoctoral project, a revision and extension of my doctoral thesis. The thesis is a transnational historical analysis of the kindergarten and related ECE in England and the USA from 1850 to 1965. It identifies the transnational history of the kindergarten and related institutions as the product of context-specific responses to educational innovation; perceptions of the family, experts, and the state; definitions of childhood; the professionalization of teachers; and the nature of Euro-American intellectual affinities and exchange. Drawing upon Daniel T. Rodgers’s Atlantic Crossings model of transnational intellectual landscapes, it compares the ways in which the kindergarten as an educational and social welfare institution and a locus of female professional identity was shaped by the needs and interests of teachers, parents and policy-makers in different periods. While the provision of ECE in England and the USA was determined by nation-specific policy contexts, the values and pedagogies promoted by educators and educationists transcended national boundaries and were (trans)formed by processes of transatlantic exchange. The current project will extend that analysis by one crucial decade to 1975, examining not only the common origins of England’s 1967 Plowden Report and America’s Head Start and Title I programs, but also their aftermath, all within the context of the long-term history of Anglo-American ECE.
About Kristen Dombkowski Nawrotzki

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