Locating Abnormal Childhood: Neil Sutherland and Teacher Education

  • Jonathan Anuik university of Alberta


Neil Sutherland identifies the 20th-century English-Canadian consensus about childhood. He tracks the beginning of its norms to the turn of the century and studies its growth as an idea shaping teachers’ practices. In pre-service teacher education, Sutherland’s scholarly work helps students learn how teachers "norm" children. Pre-service teachers understand less why certain children fall out of the norm to become abnormal. In this paper, I share how Sutherland maps normal childhood as a timely ideal coinciding with growing social and cultural complexity in Canada. The legacy of childhood as a public policy issue means teacher candidates don’t often question where these ideas began; students see them as timeless. I show how I address this knowledge gap about abnormality in my instruction of Concepts of Childhood in History. In this foundations course, pre-service teachers learn they cannot merely enforce norms but must be critical of them.