The Appearance of the Dead: Summoning Ghosts and Conjuring up the Past Through a Virtual Medium

In this chapter, we discuss how in an online graduate course concerning current issues in Early Childhood Education (ECE), we invited the ghost of philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) to class, as a way to re-image critical historical and sociocultural notions of childhood in Western curricular traditions and inheritances. Rousseau spoke directly with the students and interrupted and expanded interdisciplinary ideas about childcare and early years learning with relative historical beliefs and pedagogic practices. Summoning Rousseau to discuss his controversial treatise <i>Èmile or On Education</i> (1979), and his Enlightenment ideas within a contemporary technological platform, complicated students’ understandings of the origins of modern developmental discourses and showed how such concepts were not fixed and eternal but rather located, interpreted, and contingent (Caputo, 1987). We argue that in preparing students for an unknown (and digital) world we need to develop their historical thinking and support them to address the diverse and often troubling and difficult knowledge from the storied past. Through this pedagogic encounter we observed how students raised their critical and dialogic historical awareness as they employed the past to reconceptualize contemporary issues around ECE.