Alan Pomfret, Ph.D.


Chair, Department of Interdisciplinary Programs

Coordinator, Childhood and Social Institutions Program

What courses do you currently teach?
  • CSI 3300F/G: Childhood, Citizenship, and Participation
  • CSI 4411F/G: Research Seminar in Childhood and Social Institutions
  • CSI 4412F/G: Senior Paper Seminar in Childhood and Social Institutions
Areas of Research

Previous research examine educational innovations in curriculum and school leadership;  rural community development; gender patterns in university undergraduate science programs; and, with my wife Carolyne Gorlick, single mothers on social assistance.

Are you working on any current research projects?

I can’t think of a short way of explaining my current work. I became skeptical about the early childhood socialization and child development outlooks on children long before the Childhood and Social Institutions program started. It seemed to me that the evidence was not strong enough to justify the claims associated with these two perspectives. Also, their view of children as dependent and incompetent did not fit well with the kids I knew. I felt we needed a broader understanding of both childhood and children similar to our understandings of gender, social class, ethnicity and other such social categories.

As it turned out many others were having similar thoughts. Thus, new social studies of childhood emerged in the min-1980s. One focus is children’s participatory competencies (as opposed to their protection and provision needs). The other is childhood participatory contexts in different social institutions. I am using this extensive work to highlight a persistent but muted theme of children’s ethical capabilities. This is combined with an emergent focus on the contexts within which such capabilities can be acted upon. The final task is to develop criteria that will facilitate evaluations of the relative justice of alternative contexts. 

How does your program make a difference?

In both subject matter and program organization the Childhood and Social Institutions program (which started in September 1999) draws on numerous disciplines such as cognitive psychology, social geography, the new sociology of childhood, anthropology, history, political science, English, cultural studies, philosophy and legal and educational studies, among others.  It is the only program of its kind in Canada although there are quite a few undergraduate and graduate programs worldwide. Many of our students are considering teaching or social work. However, as part of an effort to open up additional employment pathways, we recently launched a justice certificate focused on children in courts. Additionally a child advocacy stream is under consideration. There is a research focus in the senior years of the honors program as many students go on to post-graduate work.

What do you enjoy about working at King’s?

The ongoing support for interdisciplinary work within King’s has made it a very satisfying environment for me to act on my long standing interdisciplinary commitments. The College actively encourages extensive interaction among faculty from different academic area as well between faculty and students. It is stimulating to be in such easy contact with such a diverse and changing collection of individuals. I have developed many friendships within the College in addition to numerous productive and satisfying collegial relationships. It has also been relatively easy to fulfill my family preferences and obligations given the College’s supportive work environment, a tremendously guilt relieving condition.

What are your interests outside of King’s?

My most recent interests are my two granddaughters, Wendy and Laura, my continually humbling and motivational, if occasionally exhausting, sample of two. I enjoy portrait and landscape photography.  Hiking, swimming, and curling keep me moving. The computer world as it relates to photography and web design command some time. I remain open to increasing my knowledge base of the single malt culture. Carolyne and I start every morning and end many days deluged with news programs and papers, especially political events. It seems we are news junkies. 

Anything else you would like to add about your department?

All the Interdisciplinary Department’s programs, Childhood and Social Institutions, Social Justice and Peace Studies and Thanatology, attract a significant number of new students to the College. Our Thanatology program is both unique and highly innovative, especially in terms of undergraduate education. Additionally, we are starting up a new Disabilities Studies program that increases our unique offerings and will attract an additional cohort of students. All our programs are in a ongoing state of review, renewal and development. Within such a context we continually seek ways of integrating the Department’s various programs while enhancing our connections to the College’s other academic departments.