“The more one is in a position to make decisions for children, to speak on their behalf, the more one is able to silence their voices.” (Lee, 2001, p. 10)
For 18 months in the early 2000s, I ‘hung out’ with elementary-aged children from six Mexican immigrant families; we did homework together, played with younger siblings, drew pictures, and created imaginary games. (In formal research terms, I designed an ethnography and used participant observation techniques informed by the social science of childhoods and scholars like Allison James, Alan Prout, and Marjorie Faulstich Orellana.) I wanted to explore how young kids understood a new language education program being developed and implemented in their school district. I believed that children served as cultural brokers for their families, possibly shaping how their parents understood and made choices about the new program.
As I published the results of the study, however, I found that I relied heavily upon my conversations with adults, field notes from adult-centric interactions and meetings, and interview transcripts. I generally neglected most of the data that I collected with youth, and thus, inadvertently silenced their voices. I reflect upon the entire process and re-analyze data from youth to explore questions of ethics in doing research with children and young people. The results of my reflections are in this newly published piece, “From Relating to (Re)Presenting: Challenges and Lessons Learned from an Ethnographic Study with Young Children,” qix.sagepub.com/content/21/4/354.abstract. I welcome your ideas and feedback on this!