Culture

Professor: Small Chairs in Preschools Are Sexist, ‘Problematic,’ and ‘Disempowering’

(Wikimedia Commons)
Can a small chair really be a ‘contentious and ambiguous artefact’?

According to an academic article written by an Australian professor, small chairs in preschools are “problematic” because they’re “disempowering” for teachers.

“In my first intra-active encounter with the small chair, I felt that it talked back to me about the preschool as a workplace that is gendered, feminsed, child-focused and ultimately disempowering,” Monash University senior lecturer Jane Bone writes in an article for the journal Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, titled “Ghosts of the material world in early childhood education: Furniture matters.”

Even if talking with chairs were normal, I would still say that this seems pretty crazy. That physically small chairs are the standard for physically small people seems . . . well . . . standard. What do these preschool kids need, giant barcaloungers? To finger paint in? So that no one feels disempowered by a piece of furniture? That would be a great use of taxpayer money?

The article, highlighted for its stupidity by the Twitter account New Real Peer Review, continues:

The small chair passes on a very important commandment to teachers: “Thou shalt not sit down,” — you are here to work and, like women in retail, hospitality, and catering, and at home, you will run around after others and not focus on what you might need for yourself.

Look: I’ve always considered myself to be a very emotional person (and more emotional than most), and yet, I’ve got to say that I have never felt a deep psychological connection to a piece of furniture. And I’ve known a lot of furniture, not to brag. I’ve sat on it, laid on it, eaten off of it — but I’ve never had a conversation with furniture and certainly not one that left me feeling like I had lost power over my life. And, I mean, “commandment”? I definitely have a set of standards that I use to govern my life, but I’ve got to say that not a single one of them has ever come from a chair. I guess maybe I’m just not that enlightened. As for the veiled accusations of sexism, I would say that the only sexist thing about any of this is Bone’s insinuation that only women teach preschool.

The abstract for Bone’s article may insist “that the small chair is a contentious and ambiguous artefact” that it is “problematic when considered from different perspectives” and that it “both supports and betrays the body/ies that are in contact with it,” but I’ve got to say that I’ve just never felt betrayed by a chair.

The paper also theorizes that “early childhood education is haunted by the dead white males who still whisper their theories in the classrooms of the present, and inhabit the thoughts and conceptualisations about children of their lives.”

I have never felt a deep psychological connection to a piece of furniture.

I’m not sure exactly what Bone is suggesting here. Stop teaching anything that was pioneered by any “dead white males”? Just so she doesn’t worry about children feeling haunted by their ghosts? Then again, I’m not exactly sure what she’s suggesting with the chairs, either. To build bigger ones? Because I’m pretty sure that would be a very non-environmentally friendly waste of plastic and metal, all for the sake of reducing the risk to people who might have their feelings hurt by furniture, which I’d wager is probably a pretty small percentage.

Bone’s paper was previously covered in an article on the College Fix.

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