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Precocious Politics: Preschool Education and Child Protection in China, 1903-1953

  • Author(s): Tillman, Margaret Mih
  • Advisor(s): Yeh, Wen-hsin
  • et al.
Abstract

The dissertation traces the sentimental value of childhood and the economic impact of preschool education from 1903 to 1953. According to state theorists and social reformers, by abolishing child labor and separating childhood from work, preschool education would facilitate the transition from a household to an industrial economy and would allow women to join the workforce. Long-term structural continuities undergird conflicts over the political indoctrination of children and their relationships to family hierarchies. Institutionally separated from their families, kindergartners could be trained as loyal Qing subjects, or Nationalist citizens, or Communist comrades. Each regime criticized alternative or older versions of early childhood socialization in order to shape future generations.

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