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Friday, September 20, 2013
The current political climate in America is like a battle when it should be a healthy debate. There are many repercussions when it comes to the gaps in the U.S.A., but of huge significance is the debate on early care and education. Most of the dialogue is centered around pre-kindergarten readiness, but in reality that is far from the most critical issue.
It is confounding that despite the fact that 90% of brain development occurs in the first 2000 days of a person's life, few policy makers are concerned about how many of our country's children spend those days. Children do not choose who they are born to. If we value life as many of us say we do shouldn't we put at least moderate effort into ensuring that every child, regardless of economic status or ethnicity, has the right to a decent start?
The majority of American mothers work outside the home. Most often it is not a choice, but a necessity. The state of the union over the past 10 years has made it less of a choice. But who influences children in the early years would not matter if we all valued what the nature of the influence was.
Unless you spend time in a group care and learning setting you can't possibly imagine the difference high quality makes in shaping the future of a child, or the impact that can be made to a community on any scale. Institutionalizing children is simply unnatural. Creating environments and learning experiences that gently guide children in their emotional and social development is a sensible, and based on current understanding of the general public, novel concept.
Further, the decision making process on policies for children and education indicate that we continue to undervalue the potential for far reaching sustainable change if we place greater focus on providing access to all children and families to receive the benefits of sensible early childhood practices delivered by families or appropriate programs. We need only look to other countries where child wellness is used as an indicator for the richness of the people to see evidence that this is a direction to consider.
In the 21st Century content is changing at a pace we can't begin to keep up with. But principles of basic decency and kindness have been in existence since the beginning of civilization. Shouldn't readiness be more about whether or not a child is equipped to navigate diverse groups of people and situations over what content he knows? Learning will occur if a child knows how to think, and if those who facilitate her experiences understand how she processes the world. Every child enters the world with a degree of curiosity and instinct to survive. The care and exposure each child receives is purely dependent on where he lands when he enters the world. There are many things we as individuals have no control over, but we do have control of how we approach child development and how we begin the journey of education for each child.
Whether it is at home or in a care and learning program, investing in the early years by heart or by learned skill is something we have not considered as a universal solution to much of what ails us as a society. Why should we not give it a chance? Dollar for dollar, it is a risk worth taking.
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