Occasional Paper Series #45

Quintessential Jonathan

by Virginia Casper

It was only a year ago, but many worlds away, Jonathan and I took a few hours off from a conference to hike in the hills above Las Cruces, New Mexico. The conversation wandered around people we know in common, those we have lost, and ideas we shared over 25 years as friends and colleagues. We kept returning to the topic of legacy, however, based on Jonathan’s recent reconceptualization of the term (Silin, 2020) and my interest in thinking more about it. As I listened to him explain his more generative version of this venerable notion, I remember thinking how these ideas were so quintessentially Jonathan.

Jonathan’s life and work traverse many historical moments and social-historical movements. Born Jewish at the end of World War II, he came of age as a member of the “Stonewall Generation.” Throughout his adult life, he has been a male teacher and teacher-educator in a female-dominated profession. He is a gay activist who was especially engaged during the turbulent decades of the HIV-AIDS pandemic and a queer theorist in the decidedly straight world of early childhood education.

With these multiple lenses, Jonathan alerts us to the ways in which social and biological reproduction weasel their way into seemingly simple and too often accepted concepts of our world. In the case of legacy, he rejects that one’s body of work is the passing on of static ideas for another generation to use unexamined.

About the Author

Virginia Casper has been a developmental psychologist and teacher educator for over 35 years. She served in instructional, administrative, and clinical teaching roles in the Bank Street Graduate School of Education, specializing in infant, toddler, and family development. Virginia has published in The Harvard Educational Review, Zero to Three, and numerous other journals. She also spent 10 years working internationally in early childhood education doing capacity-building professional development in China, Bulgaria, Bangladesh, Liberia, and South Africa, specializing in community-based research and learning. She is (also) a co-author of Gay-Parents/Straight Schools: Building Communication and Trust (with Steven Schultz), and a text on early childhood education (with Rachel Theilheimer) entitled Early Childhood Education: Learning Together. Since her retirement, she has returned to artwork and environmental activism.

Virginia Casper