The early years learning framework: Hopes, politics and a preliminary rhizomatic mapping

Year: 2012

Author: Sumsion, Jennifer, Grieshaber, Sue

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


In recent years, globalised curriculum discourses have given rise to localised curriculum texts that convey and produce particularised imagininings and narratives, as well as hopes for, and expectations of, young children, their childhoods and their futures. In this sense, curriculum is both utopian and political for, according to Jameson (2005), both utopianism and politics are concerned with the degree to which we should aim to imagine a radically different system to that which we have currently and how we might go about creating such a system. This paper stems from our interest in developing capacities (our own and others') in negotiating the utopian hopes for, and politics associated with, the Early Years Learning Framework, Australia's first national curriculum for early childhood settings. 

Following Deleuze and Guattari (1987), we conceptualise 'mapping' as the study of lines and their effects, and draw on Deleuzeguattarian concepts of assemblage, rhizomes and lines to undertake a preliminary and partial rhizomatic mapping of the diversity of visions of better childhoods and futures evident in the Framework. For guidance, we turned to several researchers whose rhizoanalyses have been informed by Deleuzeguattarian concepts (Honan, 2004, 2007; Leander & Wells, 2006; Masny & Cole, 2012) and who emphasise that rhizoanalysis is not so much concerned with mapping what an assemblage contains, but rather its interconnections and their effects.

Our data came from four sources: key policy documents and policy translation documents from the DEEWR website; News Corporation coverage of the Framework from 2008 to 2011; responses to that coverage from the public, politicians, academics and practitioners; and published academic analysis and critique from 12 peer reviewed journal articles and conference proceedings, including two by practitioners. Our mapping illuminated three kinds of lines (Deleuze & Parnet, 2006): firstly, rigid lines that establish and reinforce dichotomies; secondly, supple lines that mark "the connections, the attractions and repulsions" (p. 92) beneath visible segmentations - the hairline, almost imperceptible, micro cracks that may eventually shatter the dichotomies constructed by rigid lines; and thirdly, possible 'lines of flight'.  Attending to these lines, we argue, assists in seeking alternatives to the well-rehearsed dichotomies that so often characterise and confine curriculum politics and debates, and ways of exploring spaces between the possible and not (yet) possible.