Tyler - Making Better Children

Making Better Children  


by Deborah Tyler

'A proper childhood', my mother has always said, is something my father did not have.  This, according to her, explains all his adult actions and behaviours, at least those of them that are not much pleasure for anyone else.  Her narrative is anchored in an apparently impenetrable commonsense of 'what everyone knows', drawing on the claims of twentieth century child psychology to have discovered the needs and nature of the child, the conditions necessary for child development and later functioning as an effective adult citizen.  It is a wearingly familiar tale of material needs grudgingly and minimally met, of failure to provide an appropriate environment separate from the tawdry features of adult life, and the absence of a mother's love and guidance during the 'critical years' of adolescence.  My father's childhood has considerable currency in the present, sixty years after the time it could be said to have ended.  Its usefulness as an explanatory tool seems inexhaustible.

My mother is, of course, neither alone nor idiosyncratic in invoking the child to explain the adult, or in drawing on psychological notions of what constitutes a proper childhood for the stories we tell ourselves and those that are told about us, or in using those notions to assess the appropriateness of modes of child-rearing.  As Carolyn Steedman points out, these accounts are powerful in part because they can be accepted, appropriated and used by the people who are their subjects, and are not simply transmitted to us from somewhere else.1  At the same time, a variety of social arrangements concerning children find their authority in child psychology's claims to know the needs and nature of all children.   


The child' in western liberal democratic societies is positioned as a special category of person who lacks, for a time, the complete range of capacities necessary for full functioning as a citizen.2  'The child' is understood to acquire those capacities by progressing steadily along a universal path of development to emerge as a self-regulating, autonomous individual, the possessor of a range of attributes.  These include the ability to recognize one's own best interests and to be responsible for oneself.  'The child' is constituted as a distinct type of person through reference to a lack of these and other adult personal attributes.  This lack is not based in any deficiency as would be the case for an 'irresponsible adult'.  Instead, it exists in the nature of the child. But part of the story of child development is the necessity for the child's 'needs' to be met if 'development' is to proceed at a smooth and orderly pace, and if the child is not to get 'stuck' at some point along the journey, and remain, in some ways, a child in the guise of an adult, rather than an effective adult citizen.4   Like my father's childhood, these knowledges and concepts appear routinely in the familiar landscape of the present.  They are part of the stock in trade of a diverse range of personnel, forming for example the backdrop to the practices of therapists and their clients, of readers and writers of 'self-help' manuals, and of policy makers, welfare workers, police officers, court personnel, teachers, health professionals, historians and biographers.  The everyday activities of parents, particularly mothers, are shaped by these understandings, as are the evaluations made by parents and others of the quality of that parenting.5


 The urgency of the need to interrogate the production, of 'the child' of child psychology and the contours of a 'normal childhood' has been raised by recent feminist accounts of schooling.  Valerie Walkerdine, for example, has suggested that the modern school aims to produce 'an autonomous and rational individual who is class-and-gender-neutral'.6  Yet the education of girls as 'children' is not so straightforward.  Walkerdine argues that the likelihood of performing successfully as both a 'child' and as a 'girl' is remote.  Modern conceptions of child-development take children to be by nature active, inquiring and heading steadily towards autonomy as an adult.  The 'nature' of the child must be fully accommodated if the work of being a 'child' is to be successfully discharged.  Educational practices and techniques are predicated on this assessment of the child's 'nature'.  But the behaviours associated with being a good 'girl', heading steadily towards a nurturant competence and desired styles of adult femininity are at odds with the characteristics of the 'child'.  According to Walkerdine, girls are located educationally at the intersection of two competing discourses, a location where 'their position as children must remain shaky and partial, continually played across by their position as feminine'.7  


Carolyn Steedman adds a reminder that working class children, as a group, have most often been judged by contemporary and historical commentators as so unsuccessful at being children that they have appeared to their observers as not 'real' children at all.  Henry Mayhew, the mid-nineteenth century social investigator, encountered an eight year old watercress seller who was 'in thoughts and manner, a woman.'  Rather than her capacities, it was her distance from his notion of the proper business of childhood and the culturally dominant meanings of being a child that preoccupied Mayhew.  It is this distance, according to Steedman, which has remained the interest of commentators for whom:

the children of the poor are only a measure of what they lack as children: they are a falling short of a more complicated and richly endowed 'real' child...8

Rather than finding 'better' children in their classrooms, Steedman has found that teachers in English social priority schools regard few of their pupils as 'ordinary' or 'normal' children, so great is the gap they experience between the behaviours and attributes of these children and their training in how children 'ought' to be.9

Moreover, the same educational thinking that describes girls and working class children in terms of absences and deficits, failure at the work of being a child, finds its explanations for the distance of these children from 'other' children in the distance between their mothers and 'good' mothers.  Rachel Sharp and Anthony Green, for example, provide evidence of the wide circulation of understandings about relationships between a child's school performance and the activities of parents, in particular mothers, in the daily tasks of child care and child rearing.10  The headmaster in Sharp and Green's study of a social priority primary school was merely voicing what is 'widely recognised' when he said:

working class mothers do not prepare their children well enough for school ... they [middle class mothers] know that the best way to prepare the children is to get them to use the toilet properly ... to do up their laces and encourage them to be inquisitive ... to be active...they [working class mothers] think they are doing the best thing for their children.11

Whilst for educators some children are 'better' than others in terms of being better at doing the things that children are expected to do, some mothers are ''better' mothers than others, not in terms of meeting the physical needs of the child, but in terms of their handling and staging of a range of tasks which connect child care with child development and the child's future performance as an adult.  


Like the better child, the 'better' parent is not a naturally occurring phenomenon.  Sharp and Green's headmaster suggested that the better children that would be produced through child-centred education 'would themselves become better parents' and in their turn produce better children.  In the meantime, universal nursery schooling seemed to him to be the only answer.12  But, significantly, our comprehension of the problems that these mothers' daily practices pose for the modern educator depends upon the ways in which the understandings of child psychology have become translated into commonsense, become something that other mothers 'automatically' know.  


How has the shape of a 'proper childhood' become a matter of commonsense?  How has it come about that some children are 'better' children than others, better at being children, at doing the things that children are expected to do and that are taken to indicate future performance at being an adult?  What are the conditions that have made possible a present where, in the psychological domain, 'being a child' has been produced as a restricted competence, where some children are better at being children than others?  What kinds of theoretical and historical tools are useful for investigating these questions?


Psychology's Other?  


It seems clear enough that the positions provided for and taken up by girls and mothers in the psychological domain are fraught with contradiction.  The example of child-centred pedagogy, with its theoretical base in the knowledge claims of developmental psychology, provides a ready instance of Jill Matthews' description of the predicament for mothers provided by psychology where 'if the child grew up bad or sad, depraved or depraved, evil or incompetent, it was all the mother's fault.'13  Read in a particular way, child-centred pedagogy can be utilised to support a claim that modern psychological knowledges are hostile to women and girls as sexed beings, and inimical to the goals of feminist educators concerned to devise strategies that will facilitate the optimal development of the girls in their classrooms.  Yet, disconcertingly perhaps, such a reading is disturbed by the very strategies and explanations often adopted by feminist educators, strategies and explanations in which the 'nature' of the child, the 'good' mother and psychological accounts of child development figure strongly.

Feminist commentators concerned, for example, to explain sex differences in educational performance and the disinclination of female students to participate in the full range of curriculum offerings, particularly the 'non traditional' fields of science and technology, have routinely sought their answers in the early training offered by mothers.14  In this literature, legions of mothers are encountered who nurture male and female children differently, offer inappropriate role models, supply the wrong kind of toys, encourage the development of attributes that work counter to educational achievement in girls and do the reverse in boys, and reward the wrong kinds of behaviour in both sexes.  It is not necessary to discount the importance of early childhood to point to the centrality in these accounts of notions of good mothering and of the proper conduct of childhood.

In these instances, those interested in re-shaping the minutiae of daily practices in line with particular aspirations about educational outcomes and the futures of girls are more likely to be the local feminist teacher or the feminist researcher than those agents of patriarchy or of the middle class made familiar through the historians' accounts of 'intervention' or the 'imposition' of 'expert' knowledge'.15  We have not yet seen, despite some suspicion of the attempt to connect girls with science, celebrations of the resistance of target populations to the dissemination of ideas about what constitutes effective child rearing for girls who will be adult women in the twenty first century.  Rather, 'resistance' appears as a problem to be managed by connecting the desires of parents to the interests of the school through non-coercive strategies like 'parent participation'.  Such programmes are routine, mundane, unexceptional and local, and widely regarded as 'good', liberatory, enhancing individual control over everyday life.  They also involve the reiteration of a fairly restricted (though far from constant) set of criteria within which the performance of mothers as mothers, and children as children, are evaluated.  


This brief sketch makes it clear enough that the 'good mother' is a contingent figure, produced through her relationship to authoritative knowledges of the 'nature' of children and her capacity to rear children possessing particular attributes (like the ability to tie shoe laces or to make the choice to study science), rather than to any set of eternal truths.  Her appearance in feminist pedagogy as well as in the personal projects of many women makes it difficult to see her simply as an effect of patriarchy.  She exists as a normative rather than natural entity.  The 'good mother' emerges as a modern and shifting figure, whose performance at the work of mothering in accordance with particular objectives has been made calculable by herself and others.


What then of 'the child'?  Like the 'good mother', 'the child', is I argue, usefully understood as a distinctively modern 'type' of person, with capacities and attributes that are historically and culturally specific rather than naturally endowed.  Rather than positing a set of natural or repressed attributes existing in an oppositional relation to the claims of psychology to 'know' the mother and child, it is more appropriate to explore the relations between the various knowledges, strategies and institutional locations that have produced these twin figures and the terms in which each is known and claimed in the present.


This argument sets this work at odds with much of the inquiry that has been produced under the rubric of 'history of childhood' in Australia, where 'the child' is positioned as an always already existing entity who is simply acted upon by various agencies.  Its questions and interests are not those which Jan Kociumbas has claimed the historian 'must ask' about 'who created the changing images of childhood and what motivated them, and who transmitted their ideas, and how effectively'.16  Those questions are rejected because of their assumption that 'the child' exists as a stable base for 'images' of childhood, and because of their silence on 'the child' except as a pseudo-biological category of person defined through dependence.  They are rejected too because of the ways that they exclude consideration of the place of the human sciences, including psychology, sociology, medicine and architecture in producing 'the child' and making that figure visible as an object of knowledge and administration.


Equally, my interest in 'the child' as a modern 'type' of person, an inquiry which suggests the child has not always been 'the child', sets up some distance between this work and studies which interpret historical investment in the child during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries primarily as strategies enacted by a repressive state to contain oppositional elements in working class or female populations.  The work of the 'Adelaide School' of revisionist historians is exemplary here, because of the usefulness and wide acceptance of its rewriting of histories of Australian education, a rewriting which has facilitated a reconsideration of the field.17  These studies of 'working class resistance to schooling' do offer much for an analysis of the modem child as a distinct category of person, precisely through their attention to the kinds of capacities regarded as valuable by school authorities, and to the administrative arrangements that were designed to measure the presence of those capacities in school populations.18  For my purposes however, the usefulness of that work is undercut by its dependence on romantic formulations of the child, both in its accounts of resistance and in its conception of a timeless figure positioned in opposition to the knowledge claims of child psychology.  The figure of the romantic child is also used by these historians to depict the relations between child and government as naturally and inevitably coercive.  This leaves their work with little to say about non-coercive techniques for forming individual children's capacity for self-regulation.  The romantic child, like the child of developmental psychology, is an historically produced figure, not the eternal heir to a timeless world of childhood.19   But more importantly perhaps, locating the authentic child in the romantic past poses major problems for placing the child in the present, and for understanding the ground we stand on - the ground on which 'the child' and government appear together.


Although this investigation sets itself apart from some prevailing tendencies in Australian educational and feminist historiography, it has the advantage of avoiding the kinds of problems produced through working with over-drawn categories like 'the child', 'the state', and 'the school'.  Some of those problems I have already pointed to in my discussion of the susceptibility of the strategies of contemporary feminist educators to the kinds of critiques mobilised against earlier programs to shape the educational outcomes of girls.  The method of writing history which has sought to simply oppose psychology to other supposedly more authentic ways of reading the interests of particular groups of children repeatedly fails to disturb contemporary understandings.  Nor does it shed much light on the processes through which those understandings have come to take their current forms, and through which children have been defined as a specific sector of the population.  The knowledges and personnel of the human sciences are portrayed as playing a walk on-walk off role, as agents of pre-existing interests.  Here, however, I want to shift attention to the institutional settings which provided the conditions for the production of these knowledges and interests, and the problems of population management where this emerging area of expertise were deployed.  My intention is to open a space for an investigation of the historical shifts that have made the shape of a proper childhood a matter of commonsense, and that have produced the vocabulary and techniques through which 'the child' speaks its needs.  I suggest that it is those claims and techniques that have produced norms of performance as a child, institutionalising the possibility that some children operate more successfully as children than others, are better children, better at being children.

This chapter focuses on a particular institution, the purpose-built kindergarten, constructed as a space where children were to be free to be themselves and have their nature known, and from where they were to leave as recognisably 'better' children than when they arrived.  The  kindergarten child entered a space designed to eliminate certain habits and propensities, and to produce more desired attributes and capacities characteristic of the better child.  But before considering the case of the kindergarten, I want to sketch in briefly the theoretical background that makes it possible to understand the modem child as a governmental formation of a particular type of person, and which enables us to see modern childhood as involving the performance of specific types of work on the self.


Government and the Child


Nkolas Rose has described childhood as 'the most intensely governed sector of personal existence'.20  He points to the increasing investment in the child during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries where: 

the modern child has become the focus of  innumerable projects that purport to safeguard it from physical, sexual or moral danger, to ensure its normal development, to actively promote certain capacities or attributes such as intelligence, educability, and emotional stability

and which 'inextricably' connect 'the child' to the aspirations of authorities.21 At first glance these observations appear to be nothing new: they tend to be the stock in trade of historians of childhood and the family who focus on interventions into the lives of 'failing' families whose, child rearing practices least resemble those regarded as likely to produce the kinds of citizens valued by a range of authorities.  


But Rose significantly departs from readings which would interpret increasing investment in the child in terms of an extension of the powers of the state over an unwilling citizenry.  Instead he argues that we should understand in them 'a transformation of the rationalities and technologies of political rule'.22   His use of the term 'governed' draws its sense from Michel Foucault's work on 'governmentality', and the processes by which particular populations are first defined and then subjected to specific political strategies.23  Foucault has traced a shift from the Machiavellian deployment of the population primarily as a tool in reinforcing the power of the sovereign over territory, to the modern era where the welfare of the population is synonymous with the welfare of the state, and where the condition of the population itself becomes one of the interests and ends of governments.24  The tasks of authorities become those of maximizing the forces of population and of each individual within it, a set of tasks which require the development of new political technologies, and an art of government which does not rely foremost on coercion to achieve its aims.  The knowledges and techniques of the human and social sciences play a fundamental role in these technologies.25  For Foucault, an interest in 'governmentality' is an interest in the intersections between the efforts of modern states to maximise the effectivity of the population in line with particular objectives and the projects of self government in the lives of individuals.26  


Kerry Carrington's work on the administration of juvenile justice in Australia demonstrates clearly the ways in which notions of the necessary shape of a 'proper childhood' underpin coercive interventions into the lives of poor and Aboriginal families.27  These families are understood to have failed in the work of installing techniques of self-government and self-regulation into the lives of family members, producing children who are represented as a danger to themselves and to the community.  The fact that the majority of Australian families are not primarily administered through direct coercion does not remove the significance of work like Carrington's.  But nor should that significance preclude an exploration of the non-coercive techniques through which family practices are aligned with social objectives, or the techniques through which the capacity for self-government is installed in the lives of individuals.  


Yet non-coercive techniques for the regulation of populations have received little attention from social commentators in Australia.  The kindergartens of the 1930s and their objective of producing 'better', self-regulating children have been ignored along with them.  Commentators have been at a loss to explain why poor parents would voluntarily send their children to these centres which required 'parental co-operation' in the reshaping of the details of domestic existence along the lines which child psychologists held to be necessary for ordered development.  Some have suggested that the motivation was child-care.28  Most dismiss the kindergarten as in any case an institution which only catered for a minority of children.  Such accounts locate the kindergarten teacher as a bearer of middle-class values to working class populations and as a young woman in need of a profession that fitted with a future of motherhood.  They then turn swiftly to those sites where participation was compulsory.29  However, a closer look suggests that the kindergarten is an exemplary site in the production of modern childhood and the modern child, and of the knowledges and techniques of government deployed in governing child populations. 


The 1930s kindergarten was a space of non-coercive adjustment where children were to be 'set free', albeit in a supervised environment purpose-built to meet children's 'needs', staffed by women trained to base their pedagogy and everyday practices on the specialist knowledges of children produced by child psychologists.  The kindergarten was a space for ,normal' children to develop 'normally', designed to facilitate the production of knowledge about 'normal development', and to make possible minute corrections in children's behaviour and habits.  At the same time, the kindergarten environment made visible those children whose swerves off the developmental path were 'outside normal limits', off the curve, and who required more specialised correction or training.  


Training to be a Natural Child  


In 1939, Christine Heinig, Principal of the Kindergarten Training College in Melbourne, summed up the observations of many of her contemporaries involved in the assessment of children attending kindergarten and nursery schools when she declared:  

We do find that children who have had these advantages are 'better children'.  Teachers of older children who welcome independence of thought and action are glad to have these six year olds and look to them to supply ideas and leadership ... This type of vigorous fitness would seem to be the thing for which our civilization is in crying need.30  

What other kinds of attributes would the 'better child' display in the facilitating environment of the kindergarten?


Child development literature promoted the virtues of the kindergarten in directing each child along the universal path toward rationality, autonomy and self-regulation, a path that was taken to be part of the nature of all children, as well as socially desirable.  The better child would achieve control over passion through the steady acquisition of language as the appropriate vehicle for the expression of wishes and the resolution of conflicts.  Alongside rationality, the better child would move steadily toward total independence by taking every opportunity to exercise greater control and autonomy.  For the child to be moving towards independence also meant taking responsibility for one's self and one's actions, and discovering that the desire to do something was not sufficient reason in itself for doing it.  But the child who was forced into obedience would never discover 'inner discipline' and would come only to resent the rules, not regulate the self.  The child was capable of self-regulation, and to realise its full potential must develop this capacity.31  


According to Heinig and others, these 'better' children, children who were 'better' at performing the tasks that child psychologists decreed indicated levels of 'development' and foretold competence at the work of being an adult citizen, were produced by locating the child within the space of the kindergarten.  In Heinig's words:  

The informed observer will see that through the environment itself rather than through dogmatic teaching the children are having opportunities to use themselves in ways which help them to grow physically, mentally and socially.32

Her emphasis on non-coercive techniques for the production of desired attributes is worth noting.  It was largely through placement in the space of the kindergarten that 'better' children would be produced, children who had learnt to use themselves in particular ways.  


I want to take Christine Heinig's claims, and the claims of others involved in the kindergarten movement seriously, at least to the extent of arguing that the 1930s kindergarten did 'make a difference' to those children located within its spaces.  My focus here is on non-coercive techniques for governing child populations, techniques which depend upon normalisation, individualisation, surveillance and the installation of the capacity for self-regulation.  I am interested in the ways in which the architecture and organisation of space in the kindergarten made possible certain pedagogic practices which produced the 'kindergarten child', a child who could be differentiated from other children, and which also produced other distinctively modern 'types' of children.  I explore those interests here via a discussion of the Lady Gowrie purpose-built model kindergartens.  
The Lady Gowrie Centres were built as model kindergartens following lobbying of the Commonwealth Government by the then newly formed National Health and Medical Research Council, and were funded, not by educational bodies, but by the Commonwealth Department of Health.  One centre was built in each of the capital cities during 1939-1940.33  While Commonwealth support was obtained during 1938, the entry of Australia into the second world war during 1939, rather than halting the project, was widely agreed to have added to its importance.  The funding of the Lady Gowrie Centres indicates this interest, but also indicates one of the ways in which two-to-six year olds were being constituted as a distinct part of the population.  Christine Heinig described the 'training' of this group as a goal of 'national importance', a view with which J.H.L. Cumpston, the Commonwealth Director General of Health, concurred.34  


The Lady Gowrie Centres were 'special purpose' structures in that their function was the training of two to six year olds as one part of a range of strategies aimed at shaping and maximising the capacities of the population to meet national goals.  But they were also 'special purpose' in a second and equally important sense, in that they were explicitly designed to promote behaviours in the child that child psychology held to be part of the child's natural endowment, and to facilitate the production of  knowledge about each child and the group.  As stated in another government publication, the Lady Gowrie Centres were established:  

to demonstrate a model programme for the promotion of the physical, mental, social and emotional development of children of two to six years, and to provide a field for research into the problems of educational growth and physical guidance.35  

The shape of this model programme had been developed in the kindergarten laboratories of the American universities, and was intended to alleviate the behaviour problems that would lead to adult inefficiencies.  Child development literature emphasised the role of interfering and clumsy adults in producing these behaviour problems, and promoted the virtues of the purpose-built kindergarten in directing each child along the universal ordered path toward rationality, a path that was part of the nature and desire of the child, according to the story of child psychology. 36  The problem was how to provide a space where children would behave as they would if left to their own devices, thus ensuring that adults would not distract the child away from the developmental path, and at the same time allow a space for the utilisation and production of psychological knowledges that would facilitate the child's progress, assist if needed, and measure the progress of all.  This was the problem that the design of the kindergarten was intended to solve.  


In his description of special purpose buildings, Paul Hirst draws attention to the operation of the surveillance principle - the continuous inspection of individuals and the subjection of their conduct of norms of performance - in the management of populations.37  Surveillance, says Hirst, is:  

crucial to the transformation of subjects into beings of a particular type, whose conduct is patterned and governed and who are endowed with definite attributes and abilities.38

Following Foucault, Hirst gives this description of Bentham's Panopticon as an exemplar of a special purpose building directed towards the transformation of human subjects:    

Bentham's Panopticon ... is an elegant exampleof rationalising the wholestructuresuch that itcon-esponds tocertain demands of use, the whole construction is built around the strategy of inspection ... In this sense it is a systematically functional architecture, a space organised by certain demands of utilisation and worked out rigorously to facilitate them.39  

The strategy of the Panopticon is well known.  The prisoner was to become the warden of the self through the impossibility of knowing when the gaze of those in the observation tower would fall on him, and having to learn to conduct himself as though it were permanently so.40  


The 1930s kindergarten provides an equally elegant example of the surveillance principle, although embodying different techniques of surveillance and with very different effects.  The architecture and organisation of space in the kindergarten facilitated surveillance as a technique for producing a 'better' child in terms of performance of developmental tasks identified by child psychologists in three major ways.  I will refer to each briefly.  


The first way is in terms of the impossibility of child and adult sharing the same gaze.  In the kindergarten this impossibility was produced by precise calculations of the different location of bodies in space occupied by the kindergarten teacher and the kindergarten child.  The kindergarten teacher was required to operate in a space that was, in Heinig's words, 'scaled to the size of the child whose eye level is at about thirty inches from the floor.' 41  Furniture was child sized and carefully graded so that the two year old occupied tables and chairs that were different in size from those used by the older child.  The Commonwealth Government plans for the Lady Gowrie Centres specified that the size of each playroom should be calculated on thirty five square feet per child. 


Included in the plan was the design of chairs for two year olds, three year olds and so on, and the numbers to be constructed for each group.  Measurements for the chairs were calculated from height for age tables and included back height from floor, seat front width, back width, depth front to back, front height and back height.  A two year old's chair would have a back height from floor of fifteen and a quarter inches, a three year old's measured sixteen inches and a four year old's nineteen and a half inches.42    


Such fine calculations enabled the teacher to tell at a glance who was large for their age, who small; she could measure the child simply by how his/her body occupied the space allotted to the 'normal' child in the economy of the kindergarten, just by looking.  Moreover, placing the children on miniature furniture meant that she could function as a mobile observation post, able to see everything, everyone, everywhere from her giant status in a Lilliputian world.  


That the children, absorbed in the tasks of development in their miniature landscape did not watch her depended, in part, upon the calculation of the impossibility of the shared gaze.  For example, while two year olds learnt independence at toilets positioned six inches from the floor, if sitting, or ten inches from the floor if standing, separated from each other by three foot partitions, the kindergarten manual directed:  

The partition between the classroom and the lavatory ... should be glass panelled from four feet upwards for at least three feet ... Thus the teacher can see from the classroom all that is going on in the lavatory and can indirectly supervise it.43  

Child sized toilets then, not only enabled the child to become independent but employed the surveillance principle by enabling the teacher from her adult vantage point to observe the frequency with which children used them, to monitor their success or failure at maintaining the schedule the teacher had set, based on the ordered rhythms science knew were natural.  The provision of a meal not only meant the child was fed but that the teacher, on her adult sized chair, could 'make records of daily food intake, behaviour expressed and techniques used'.44  Thus fine calculations of the differences in size between adult and child, and the design of an environment to employ that difference in the utilisation of the teacher's gaze, facilitated the measuring of the child, the making of comparisons, the development of standards and the implementation of training to bring the child toward the norm. 


The second way in which the architecture and organisation of space in the kindergarten facilitated the surveillance principle was through the incorporation of the requirements of unseen observation posts into the design of the building itself.  The most conspicuous, or rather inconspicuous, of these was the observation booth, part of the layout of all Lady Gowrie Centres.  Australian kindergartens followed the design pioneered by Arnold Gesell, who provides the following description, worth giving at length for the ways it connects surveillance to the purposes of the kindergarten:  

The one way vision screen is a device which permits an unseen observer to see.  It enables him to see many things which he could not otherwise see at all, and brings him closer to the realities of child behaviour because it removes the distorting and disturbing influence of the observer.  It is not merely a laboratory gadget but an adaptable technique which has many practical uses both for controlled and naturalistic observation and for educational demonstrations.  It is a contrivance which combines intimacy of observation with detachment.


The principle of the one way screen is relatively simple.  Perhaps you have had an experience like this: You walked down a sunny path of a garden; you opened the screen door of a porch located at the end of the path; to your surprise you found in the shadow of the porch someone whom you had not noticed at all while you were in the garden.  Yet all the while this person could see you plainly ... one must imitate these conditions.45  

Gesell goes on to describe how to prepare these conditions, and again his instructions are worth quoting at length for two reasons.  First, they are replicated in the instructions issued along with the plans for the Lady Gowrie Centres.46  Second, the echoes with the technologies of observation described by Foucault in his discussion of the Panopticon, particularly the control of light and darkness, are striking.  This serves to emphasise the importance of surveillance to the exercise of disciplinary power, and the importance of disciplinary power to the architecture of the kindergarten.47  


Gesell continues his discussion by adjudicating on the advantages of No.30 wire cloth over sixteen mesh wire, and gives advice on using casein paint over enamel and on the technique of the air brush.  He writes:  

The location of the observer's station is of critical importance.  The station should be as dark as possible ... Care should be taken so that direct light from windows or from lamps will not strike directly through the screens.  Such direct rays of light tend to reveal the observer's eye-glasses and light coloured objects.  Invisibility is increased by wearing dark clothes ... The walls of the observation station should be painted black or midnight blue.  Dark carpeting draped on the walls and thick carpeting on the floor serve to silence sounds inadvertently made by the observers.  Placement of plate glass behind the screen excludes sound but interferes with ventilation.  Strict silence is an extremely important rule.  Our injunction to the observer ... is "Be absolutely quiet.'  The child can hear you even though he cannot see you.' 48

Only two points need special emphasis.  One is the careful detail, precise calculations involved in the technologies of observation, and place of the child in these calculations.  The child, once entering the kindergarten, is mapped, monitored and trained via a series of disciplinary technologies that are determined through the knowledge of 'the normal child'.  Second is the way in which Gesell's description of the observation booth as combining 'intimacy of observation with detachment' depicts not only the approved relation between observer and child, but between teacher and child and mother and child.  The ways in which the organisation of space in the kindergarten not only worked to calculate the distances between children but also the distance between teacher and child, teacher and mother, and mother and child is outside the concerns of this paper.49  But it is worth noting that the 'surveillance principle' determines the relationship between teacher and child, and reserves the appellation of 'good teacher' for those who keep their distance and do not seek to share the child's gaze.  


The third way in which the architecture and Organisation of space facilitated surveillance has been foreshadowed in the previous discussion.  This model is best depicted through the construction of the case-record, a technology that both employs and enables observation.  The techniques of the case-record provided a mechanism which was capable of bringing together a range of distinct and unconnected observations made by a variety of specialists to provide a total mapping of the child.  


The case-record, like the observation booth, appears in the Lady Cowrie manual as a specialized technique, an innovative means of producing new knowledge.  The manual states in explanation:  

In a Pre-School Centre medical staff take cognizance of the mental, social and emotional development of children.  Teaching staff are alert to the physical aspects of growth and health.  The social worker, a specialist ... has an overview of the child at home.  All these staff members have specialized information about the child, and each is a link in a chain of effort aiming to plan the programme of all round development.50

The Lady Cowrie manual provides pro-formas for the reproduction of record sheets that were essential to such an overview, which include within them new ways of recording and organising information, such as ticking different columns to indicate different levels of performance at the same task.  The case-record provided a mechanism for describing the child, but the method of recording required a judgement to be made, a classification of the child's abilities to take place.  These judgements and classifications were made on the basis of the norms of development established through the knowledges of developmental psychology, gleaned in their turn from the observation of children in spaces like the 'glass-house' kindergarten.  The record card provided the means of laying the shape of each child over the pattern of normal development, and of observing where deviations were occurring.  At the same time, and in the same space, the record provided the means of registering the differences and distances between children.  In the minutiae of details, in the range of possible classifications, each child would take on a different shape.  Buttoning and unbuttoning, for example, are listed as separate developmental tasks, and three alternative ratings for progress are provided.  While two children may well be observed to unbutton garments with help, they are less likely to have produced their first tooth and first sentence at the same time, and to both be left-handed.  The 'Social and Developmental History Forms' which established the basis of the case-record were completed before the child's entry to the centre.  They covered twelve sheets of questions like those described, and guaranteed that the child would enter the kindergarten space an individual.51  


The case-record then was instrumental in producing claims about the individuality of each child, but it simultaneously subjected each child to a normalising gaze, a gaze that calibrated deviations and directed specific pedagogic techniques to re-locating the child closer toward the norm.  The case-record functioned as one part of the operation of the surveillance principle in the Lady Gowrie kindergartens.  It is the operation of this principle that Hirst has claimed to be 'crucial to the transformation of subjects into beings of a particular type' 52 and in this space, crucial to the production of 'the kindergarten child', that child who was 'better' than other children at performing the tasks which child psychology deemed to be particularly significant for future performance as an adult.  A fuller account of the production of this child would need to move outside spatial arrangements and include, for example, the training of kindergarten teachers to provide children with already defined 'experiences' and the filling of the kindergarten space with purpose-ful objects.53   I have chosen to concentrate on spatial arrangements here because of the centrality of surveillance to the production of the 'kindergarten child'.  

The 'kindergarten child', that 'better child', was not the only type of child who was produced within the spaces of the kindergarten.  A survey of problem children in Melbourne schools reported the proliferation of distinct types of children to be found in kindergartens.54   These types included the hyperactive child, the emotional child, the egocentric child and the solitary child.  Like the 'better child' these less favoured types also depended in part upon the spatial arrangements of the purpose-built kindergarteri for their production.  A quick sketch of the 'solitary child' will do as an example.  The kindergarten was explicitly organised around the facilitation of behaviours that were held to be part of the always already existing nature of the child, according to the discourse of child-psychology.  The child, naturally, would at some times wish to share its spaces with other children, and at different times would desire to create distances.  Some developmental tasks, like the building of skills in concentration, it was held, required the child to be separate from other children.  Some, like sociability, clearly involved the entry of a number of children into that thirty-five square feet allotted by the Commonwealth Government to each child.  And, given that the appropriate location for the teacher was in the background, as observer not an initiator of activities, and that each child, as an individual would require separate spaces at different times from other children, the organisational difficulties were considerable.  Kindergartens solved this architectural problem in a range of ways.  


Some American kindergartens favoured what architecture magazines termed 'grottos, or secluded somewhat mysterious spaces' outdoors, always ensuring that 'the entire area should be within sight of a teacher standing at any point'.55  The Lady Gowrie plans describe a solution more commonly employed in Australian kindergartens, which expedited rather than jeopardised surveillance.  Kindergartens were equipped with an internal balcony or similar arrangement, where children were to understand they were to go when they wanted to be undisturbed.56  The balcony provided the space to be by oneself in the kindergarten, and made being by oneself a possibility.  The normal child made use of this space appropriately, the hyperactive child avoided the balcony and the solitary child sought out its spaces.  The balcony provided the teacher with the opportunity, and the categories on her record card supplied the task, of observing and monitoring that aloneness, of classifying the child on the record as seclusive or solitary.  She was to try and encourage the child toward the 'right' degree of sociability without altering the conditions which made 'solitariness' possible and able to be observed.

The kindergarten then did 'make a difference' to those children within its spaces.  I have argued that spatial arrangements were central to the production of that 'difference', that is to the formation of children of a particular type, with defined attributes and abilities including that of self-regulation.  Rather than the child being free to be 'itself' within the kindergarten, that self was the product of a discursive formation of which the kindergarten was a statement, and which produced the ability to be 'a child' as a specific ability, a restricted competence.    


My emphasis on the place of techniques of surveillance in producing the shape of a child and of a proper childhood is perhaps disturbing to those who envisage childhood as a space of freedom from regulation, a space governed simply by internal laws that move the child inevitably to adulthood.  This disturbance is likely to be exacerbated for those who conceive of the operations of power as purely repressive, and who may be tempted to see in the kindergarten merely a more finely honed mechanism for the crushing of wills.  But it would be inappropriate to regard the kindergarten as an institution where the 'real' child in the child was repressed, or to take this analysis as an incentive to attempt to develop a pedagogy or architecture that could truly set the child free.  My analysis suggests rather that those attributes such as self regulation and independence that are taken to be part of the nature of the child are more usefully regarded as the product of particular trainings, the outcome of 'technologies of the self' which:  

permit individuals to effect by their own means or with the help of others a certain number of operations on their own bodies and souls, thoughts, conduct and ways of being, so as to transform themselves in order to attain a certain state of happiness, purity, wisdom, perfection ... 57

Happiness, purity, wisdom, perfection?  Perhaps not.  Analysis of the production of the normative shape of a proper childhood directs us more to the mundane than it does to such lofty considerations.  Nevertheless, the mundane goals of these normative programmes - those of making children healthier, more articulate and more self-directing - are ones which few modem educators or parents would dismiss lightly.  




What we have in the kindergarten then is an example of a governmental programme designed to form a particular type of person, the better child, who would become a more effective adult citizen, in a space that was intended to allow the child who entered to perform particular kinds of work on itself.  The 'better child' was a product of various knowledges and strategies, including psychological knowledges and the architectural arrangements of the kindergarten.  The 'better child' was by definition self-regulating rather than coerced into obedience.  Through connecting the desires of the child to the objectives of relevant authorities, the 'better child' emerges as the agent of his or her own self production.  This analysis suggests that the late nineteenth and twentieth century interest in the child did not produce a discovery of its 'nature', instead a series of programmes  and strategies aimed at producing particular types of children with specific capacities and attributes.  The 1930s kindergarten was a space designed to permit the child to be the child that child psychologists had determined the child would be, if allowed to develop according to the universal path through childhood.    


This is not to suggest, of course, that only better children emerged from the kindergarten - after all, such projects produce within them the inevitability of deviation, and the need for further intervention.  And the imperative to intervene in the formation of the child continues in full force.  If the figure of the 'better child' is one that no longer receives quite the same attention in the projects of forming effective adult citizens in the 1990s as it was given in the 1930s, there is no shortage of strategies to form other types of children.  For instance, educational programs to produce girls who will choose to take science subjects, who will wish to enter 'non-traditional' careers or who will simply 'speak up', are a familiar part of the contemporary scene.  Like the project to form 'better children', these efforts are non-coercive and rely on the possibility of connecting the desires of individual girls with the aspirations of particular authorities.  The girl who 'speaks up' when appropriate is likely to feel better about herself, and have her efforts rewarded.  Like the kindergarten training of the child, these feminist reform programmes are not simply repressive of the 'nature' of girls, and resistance to them is not necessarily a cause of celebration.  But they are certainly normative, involving deliberate interventions into the daily routines of girls who do not appear to have learnt the liberatory lessons of the classroom.  And like the normative and reformative programmes of the kindergarten, they are productive of particular 'problem' populations requiring special strategies for their reformation.  


The questions I have raised here, however, are not to do with the appropriateness or otherwise of programmes to produce children with certain attributes.  Rather, they are concerned with the provenance of contemporary claims to know the nature of the child, the provision of liberatory programs that promise to set the child free on the basis of knowledge of its nature, and the processes by which it has become possible for some children to operate more successfully as children than others.  This makes it possible to clarify some of the confusions attending the dual imperatives of modem pedagogy - to set the child free and to form the child more fully.  Moving beyond more general historical characterisations of the the effects of repressive and liberatory principles, I have suggested some ways in which these imperatives can be traced to the definite and united objectives of particular sites and programmes.  This should provide the step towards a more complex political evaluation of the forms of regulated freedom currently available to the child.  




1.  Carolyn Steedman, 'Review symposium: language, structure and reproduction', British Journal of Sociology   of Education, vol.7, no.4, 1986.  

2.  See Jeffrey Minson, Genealogies of Morals, Nietzsche, Foucault, Donzelot and the Eccentricity of Ethics, London, 1985, Ch.9, espec. p.207.

3.  See Russell Hogg and David Brown, 'Reforming juvenile justice: issues and prospects', in J.Murray and A.Borowski (eds), Juvenile Delinquency in Australia, London, 1985 for a working through of the effects of this constitution of 'the child' in child welfare.  

4.  On child development, see Valerie Walkerdine, 'Developmental psychology andchild-centred pedagogy: the insertion of Piaget into early education', in Julian Henriques and others (eds), Changing the  Subject:  psychology, social regulation and subjectivity, London, 1984.

5.  On mothers' own evaluations see Cathy Urwin, 'Power relations and the emergence of language', in Henriques et al. (eds), Changing the Subject.  On their evaluation by others, see Kerry Carrington, Manufacturing Female Delinquency, Ph.D Thesis, Macquarie University, 1989.  

6.  Valerie Walkerdine, 'On the regulation of speaking and silence: subjectivity, class and gender in contemporary schooling, in Carolyn Steedman, Cathy Urwin & Valerie Walkerdine (eds), Language, Gender and Childhood, London, 1985, p.207.  

7.  Walkerdine, 'On the regulation of speaking and silence', p.210.

8.  Carolyn Steedman, Landscape for a Good Woman, A Story of Two Lives, London, 1986, pp-126-7.

9.  Carolyn Steedman, 'Prisonhouses', Feminist Review, No.20, Summer 1985, p.16. Social priority schools receive some additional funding through the classification of their catchment area as disadvantaged on a set of indices similar to those used to identify 'disadvantaged schools' in the Australian context (e.g number of parents unemployed, on benefits, non-english speaking).

10.  Rachel Sharp and Anthony Green, Education and Social Control, A Study in Progressive Primary Education, London, 1975.  This is an important study, but I have subjected it to a reading which draws different conclusions from those of its authors.  Sharp and Green see child-centred pedagogy as an instrument of social control of working class populations via 'soft' technologies, with its 'real' function exposed by the inability of teachers to explain their classroom practices in the psychological vocabulary of child-centredness with sufficient rigour instead the teachers were inclined to resort to 'commonsense, and so in Sharp and Green's terms 'ideological'. explanations of their actions (Ch.9). Their reading underestimates the taken-for-granted quality of psychological knowledges of the child, and the assumption that the basis of practice has become more 'what everyone knows, rather than command of a restricted theoretical vocabulary.  The understanding and practices they point to are widespread in school systems, and are not confined to working class schools. 

11.  Rachel Sharp and Anthony Green, p. 58.

12.  Rachel Sharp and Anthony Green, p. 57.

13.  Julius Matthews, Good and AW Women: the historical construction Of femininity in twentieth- century Australia, Sydney, 1984, p.79. 

14.  See for example, the work of Jan Harding which has been widely utilised at the programme level in Australia and the U.K. including: J.Hardin, Increasing the Access of Girls to Science and Technology, Melbourne, 1986; J.Harding, 'Values, cognitive style and the curriculum,' Girls, Science and Technology Conference 3, April 13-18,1986 (U.K). For a critical review of Harding's work and the adoption of object relations theory to explain achievement see Helen Bannister, 'Truths about assessment and the learning of girls: from gender difference to the production of gendered attainment', Gender Issues in the Theory and Practice of Educational Administration and Policy, Deakin University, Geelong, 1989.  

15.  Is  See Matthews, Good and Mad Women; Jan Kociumbas, 'Childhood history as ideology, Labour History, no.47, November 198.4; Ian Davey and Pavla Miller, 'Forced to resist, the working class and the imposition of schooling', Radical Education Dossier, Spring, 1981.

16.  Kociumbas, p.13. 

17.  See for example Pavla Cook, Ian Davey and Malcolm Vick, 'Capitalism and working class schooling in late nineteenth century South Australia', Australian and New Zealand History of Education Society Journal, vol.8, no.2,1979; Ian Davey and Pavla Miller, 'Forced to resist'; Phil Cashen, 'The truant as delinquent: the psychological perspective, South Australia, 1920-1940', Journal of Australian Studies, no.16, May 1985; Pavla Miller and Ian Davey, 'Family formation, schooling and the patriarchal state', in M.Theobald and RJ.W.Selleck (eds), Family, School and State in Australian History, Sydney, 1990.

18.  See Pavla Miller, 'Efficiency, stupidity and class conflict in South Australian schools, 1875-1900', History of Education Quarterly, Fall 1984.

19.  See Peter Coveney, The Image of Childhood, The Individual and Society: a study of the theme in English literature, Penguin, 1967; Carolyn Steedman, Childhood, Culture and Class in Britain: Margaret McMillan 1860-1931, Virago, London, 1990.  

20.  Nikolas Rose, Governing the Soul, the shaping of the private self, London1990, p.121.    

21.  Rose, p.121.  

22.  Rose, p.5.     

23.  See Gavin Kendall and Gary Wickham, 'Health and the social body', paper presented at TASA '91,     Perth, for this formulation of governrnentality.  

24.  Michel Foucault, 'On governmentality', I&C, no. 6, Autumn 1979, p. 17.  See also Michel Foucault, History of Sexuality, Vol 1:  an introduction, London, 1979, part 5.         

25.  Michel Foucault, 'The political technology of individuals', in Luther H. martin, Huck Gutman and Patrick H. Hutton, Technologies of the Self, A Seminar with Michel Foucault, Tavistock, London, 1988, p. 151, p. 162.

26.  Michel Foucault, 'Technologies of the self', in Luther H. Martin, Huck Gutman, Patrick H. Hutton, Technologies of the Self, ch-2, p.18.  See also Michel Foucault, 'On governmentality'. 

27.  Kerry Carrington, 'Aboriginal girls and juvenile justice:  What justice?  White justice', Journal for Social Justice Studies 3, 1990; Kerry Carrington, 'Policing families and controlling the young', Journal of Australian Studies no. 31, 1991. 

28.  Peter Spearitt, "The kindergarten movement:  tradition and change', in Don Edgar (ed), Social Change in Australia, Melbourne, 1974, p. 589.

29.  Graeme Davison, 'The city-bred child and urban reform in Melbourne 1900-1940', in Peter Williams (ed), Social Process and the City, Sydney, 1983, pp. 159-162; Peter Spearitt, 'Child care and kindergartens in Australia 1890-1975', in P. Langford and P. Sebastian (eds), Early Childhood Care and Education in Australia, Melbourne, 1979.

30.  Christine Heinig, 'Child development as promoted by the facilities for child and parent education in nursery schools and kindergartens', Proceedings of the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science (ANZAAS), 1939, p. 221.

31.  See Christine Heinig, 'The training of the pre-school child', The Medical Journal of Australia July 30, 1938; P.M. Bachelard, 'The psychological approach', Australian Association for Pre-School Development, First Biennial Conference, 1939.  See also Deborah Tyler, '"Setting the child free"?:  Teachers, mothers and child-centred pedagogy in the 1930s kindergarten', in Jane Kenway and Jill Blackmore (eds), Changing the System, (forthcoming).

32.  Heinig, 'Child development', p. 221.

33.  J.H.L. Cumpston and C. Heinig, Preschool Centres in Australia, Building, Equipment and Programme, Canberra, 1944, pp. i-v.

34.  Cumpston and Heinig, p. i.

35.  Edna Hill, The Lady Gowrie Centres.  First Analysis of Case History Records of Children Attending the Lady Gowrie Centres (1939-1946), Canberra, 1949.

36.  See for example, Heinig, 'Child development'; May Gutteridge, 'The story of an Australian nursery school', Australian Educational Studies, (First Series), Melbourne, 1932; John F. Williams, 'Mental hygiene of the pre-school child', Medical Journal of Australia, July 30, 1935, pp. 145-148.

37.  Paul Q. Hirst, Foucault and Architecture, Sydney, 1986.

38.  Hirst, pp. 16-17.

39.  Hirst, p. 22.

40.  Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish:  the birth of the prison, Harmondsworth, 1979, pp. 195-228.

41.  Christine Heinig, 'The training of the pre-school child', July 30, 1935, p. 156.

42.  Cumpston and Heinig, pp. 45-51.

43.  Cumpston and Heinig, p. 34.

44.  Heinig, 'The training of the pre-school child', p. 158.

45.  Arnold Gesell, Infant and Child in the Culture of Today, London, 1943, p. 370.

46.  Cumpston and Heinig, pp. 14-44.

47.  Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish, esp. pp. 170-230.

48.  Gesel, p. 371.

49.  But see Tyler, '"Setting the child free".

50.  Cumpston and Heinig, pp. 85-86.

51.  Cumpston and Heinig, pp. 85-86.

52.  Hirst, p. 16.

53.  See Tyler 'Setting the child free'.

54.  K.S. Cunningham, 'Problem children in Melbourne schools', Australian Educational Studies, (First Series), Melbourne, 1932, p. 78, p. 82.

55.  N.L. Englehardt, Research Assistant, Department of Educational Research, Teacher's College, Columbia University, in Architectural Record, combined with American Architect and Architecture, vol. 85, Feb. 1939, pp. 97-98.

56.  Cumpston and Heinig, pp. 14-51.

57.  Foucault, 'Technologies of the Self', p. 18.

This paper was originally published in Child and Citizen:  genealogies of schooling and subjectivity, Edited by Denise Meredyth and Deborah Tyler, 1993.