Occasional Paper Series #45

What Grown-Ups Aren’t Thinking About: A Response to Tran Nguyen Templeton

by Wendy Luttrell

Tran Templeton opens her article “Whose Story Is It?: Thinking Through Early Childhood with Young Children’s Photographs” with a compelling adult-child encounter. Tran and 6-year-old Saloma are viewing photographs taken of Saloma by early childhood teachers in the preschool classroom where Tran taught and conducted her research. Saloma offers a piercing analysis of “grown-ups” who neglect to consider children’s own wishes. “Maybe the people [children] don’t want you to take a picture of them when they’re like that,” Saloma cautions. But it isn’t just that adults are taking pictures that may be unwanted; what bothers Saloma is how we as adults position children in diminutive ways. Tran registers the indignation in Saloma’s voice as the 6-year-old states her objection, “Like they [adults] just think, ‘Oh that’s so cute’ (makes a shutter noise ‘chk!’) and they [children] don’t even want you to do that. What about that? Grown-ups aren’t thinking about that!”

How better to honor Jonathan Silin’s lifetime of work and introduce readers to critical childhood studies than to highlight Saloma’s insightful critique? This exchange exemplifies the goal of critical childhood studies, a field that aims to privilege and amplify children’s own perspectives and experiences and treat them as competent social actors in their own right, no matter where they ‘fit’ into child development discourses. Tran’s article beautifully embodies this field of research that requires adults to create conditions of hospitality so that children feel welcomed and valued for who they are, not who they are “supposed” to be according to prescribed norms, standards, and performance measures. And vice versa: as Tran so importantly writes, research in this field demands “deep awareness and reflexivity. … As an inquiry process, I have to ask into what space children might be welcoming me (or alternatively barring me entry from).”

About the Author

Wendy Luttrell is a professor of urban education, critical psychology, and sociology. She is the current executive officer of the Urban Education PhD Program at The Graduate Center, CUNY. Her research examines how urban American schooling shapes and reinforces beliefs about gender, race, class, identity, knowledge, and power, with a focus on how systems of inequality get internalized, especially by learners who have been marginalized, excluded, or stigmatized.

Wendy Luttrell