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on April 30, 2010
Sometimes you pick up a book that you enjoyed in an earlier phase of your life to check whether it was really that good. In the case of "Preschool in Three Cultures" the situation is even more interesting in that we get to revisit the earlier book and its subject matter. It turns out that the earlier book was definitely that good and that revisiting the same subject matter is perhaps even better.

For the general public interested in childhood education, as well as for academic specialists in comparative and early childhood education, this is not only a very informative, but also a truly enjoyable read.

The book is particularly strong in the research methods that are brought to bear on important questions regarding early childhood education. To examine differences between early education in the U.S., China, and Japan, the authors videotaped a day in two preschools in each country and then showed these videos (in edited form) to teachers at the schools where the videos were shot to get their reaction to aspects of the video. In addition, the researchers also showed these videos to other educators in all three countries to get their reactions. These screenings also included the videos that formed the basis for the original research, published as Preschool in Three Cultures: Japan, China and the United States, adding a longitudinal comparison to the international one.

By showing concrete evidence of particular pedagogical strategies, the authors tease out reactions that tell the reader about perceptions of other countries' pedagogies, but by extension also about perspectives on early childhood education more generally.

Whereas one often hears that old chestnut about Japan being a Confucian society, Tobin, Hsueh, and Kawasawa were able to point to very concrete facets of early education to compare between the three countries. By the way, it turns out that there is very little that's obviously "Confucian" about Chinese or Japanese early education.

By describing the preschools themselves, but then also discussing the reactions of educators to the videos at great length, the authors skilfully draw us into their analysis and actually let readers do a lot of the analysis themselves. Not only is this admirable in terms of the openness of the method, but it gives readers a great opportunity to engage the research materials themselves and to learn a lot about comparative early education in the process.

As icing on the cake, the videos are actually available from the author (see [...]). For my part, I will be showing the videos to students in an undergraduate class on "Sociology of Education" and then discussing them before assigning parts of the book. I know that the students will enjoy the videos as well as the readings and that they will benefit greatly from their exposure to this research.

-- Julian Dierkes
Associate Professor, University of British Columbia
Author of Postwar History Education in Japan and the Germanys: Guilty lessons (Routledge Contemporary Japan Series)
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on September 26, 2010
I became a fan of David We after reading his first book on Preschool in Three Cultures. At that time many people were fascinated and puzzled by Japan's economic success (as some still are). Any sociologist or business person planning to do business in Japan or China would be well advised to read the first and revisited versions.
It is rare that writers take such an openly critical look at the work they are doing. Videos of classroom activities are shown to the participants of the three countries involved for feedback and criticism thereby immensely increasing the diversity of opinion that only one onlooker might achieve. The Japanese are aghast at the severity of the Chinese classroom regimen initially but impressed after a passage of 20 years and phenomenal change in Chinese society. The Chinese are aghast at the lax attitude of the Japanese teachers, offering readers great insight into the decision making processes of both countries. It reveals much and I admire all those involved in delving into the originals of culture, social expectations and organization that these books reveal.
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on April 30, 2013
The very interesting book provides a valuable update to the preschools of China, Japan, and the US. It details dramatic changes as well as enduring beliefs and practices 20 years later, reflecting the cultural and educational philosophies of each country. This is a wonderful vehicle for understanding how culture and the passage of time influence a country's preschools. I applaud Tobin, Hsueh, and Karasawa!
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on December 22, 2015
I bought this for a sociology class and was expecting to enjoy it (like most of the non-textbooks I've had for socy classes).....This was so (unnecessarily) dense. Not interesting at all -- an in-depth summary would have sufficed.
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on October 2, 2013
I read this for a Master's level education course on Culture. It was a wonderful resource and a great way to start off the semester in thinking about the impact of culture on preschool education
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on January 3, 2013
its kind of boring but I had to read it for my anthropology class, it gives good observations of the kids, the perosn who worte this was a good anthropologist!
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on February 9, 2013
Very informative, especially the analysis across the decades. It has clinical chops but is written for the common fan of education. Overall, excellent.
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on June 10, 2016
Interesting, well written. Methodology, theory and results highly relevant for ECEC
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HALL OF FAMEon December 22, 2010
This book looks at what has stayed the same and what has changed over the interval of 1984-2002 in Chinese, Japanese, and American preschools after returning to the same original sites. Staff at each location were shown a videotape of practices at the earlier observation.

The Chinese school (Daguan) had been rebuilt, teachers now have an associate degree or professional diploma in early childhood education. American educators were puzzled that Chinese children were not prohibited from making toy guns out of their blocks, while their Chinese counterparts were surprised that the U.S. didn't see the irony of banning toy guns in preschool but making real ones readily available. Chinese preschools do not teach patriotism, though they do emphasize traditions such as the Spring Festival.

Teachers in the Japanese preschool now used strategic intervention between children's spats - they became teaching moments.

Overall, this '2nd-edition' is not as interesting as the first, and not even carried in the author's university library. Lacks input from parents and children also.
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