'Be Realistic, Demand the Impossible': A Memoir of Work in Childcare and Education, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

'Be Realistic, Demand the Impossible'

A Memoir of Work in Childcare and Education, 1st Edition

By Helen Penn


208 pages | 8 B/W Illus.

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Paperback: 9781138064911
pub: 2018-08-21
Hardback: 9781138064904
pub: 2018-08-21
eBook (VitalSource) : 9781315160115
pub: 2018-09-03
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An astute exploration of the complexities of working and learning in the field of Early Childhood Education and Care, Professor Helen Penn tells of her experiences of working as a teacher, social worker, campaigner, researcher and writer, and so reflects on the perennial and complex issues which shape this expanding field.

Mapping the author’s career from the mid-sixties onward, ‘Be Realistic, Demand the Impossible’ is a tribute to the progress that has been made in Early Childhood Education and Care over the past 70 years and is a celebration of those who have acted on their principles to articulate and remedy hidden suffering. A first-hand commentary on adult-child relations, poverty, working with families and engaging with democracy and inequality, Penn’s narrative reconstructs her past and, in doing so, produces a social history that records the various shifts in policy and public attitudes which she has witnessed. The author recognizes the collective effort and teamwork involved in working within organizations, as well as the constraints and tensions such organizations can create. She comments on the wider political system and assesses the particular pattern of educational inequality and oppression which afflicts the UK.

One of the best known and most respected figures in her field, Penn provides a unique perspective on change as well as offering a framework for understanding, assessing and working within the field of Early Childhood Education and Care. Insightful and frank, witty and funny, this book will be a valuable read for students, academics, researchers and practitioners involved in this field.

Table of Contents


Foreword by Michel Vandenbroeck

Chapter One: Memoir as Method

Chapter Two: Teaching in London

Chapter Three: The Red Republic of Wandsworth

Chapter Four: Who Needs Nurseries – We Do!

Chapter Five: Laborious Democracy

Chapter Six: Tanzania

Chapter Seven: Becoming a Researcher

Chapter Eight: A Workday University

Chapter Nine: Southern Africa

Chapter Ten: Swimming Pools in the Steppes and Pianos in the Desert

Chapter Eleven: The Noise of Time

About the Author

Helen Penn is now Professor Emerita at the University of East London and Visiting Professor at the Institute of Education, University College London, UK. She has undertaken work for a variety of international organizations including EU, OECD, UNICEF, UNESCO and Save the Children.

About the Series

Contesting Early Childhood

This groundbreaking new series questions the current dominant discourses surrounding early childhood, and offers instead alternative narratives of an area that is now made up of a multitude of perspectives and debates.

The series examines the possibilities and risks arising from the accelerated development of early childhood services and policies, and illustrates how it has become increasingly steeped in regulation and control. Insightfully, this collection of books shows how early childhood services can in fact contribute to ethical and democratic practices. The authors explore new ideas taken from alternative working practices in both the western and developing world, and from other academic disciplines such as developmental psychology. Current theories and best practice are placed in relation to the major processes of political, social, economic, cultural and technological change occurring in the world today.

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