If you care for young children during their first few years of life, you're much more important than many people think. You're laying down the brain architecture that will form their ability to learn for the rest of their lives. Your work is priceless.
But there's a big problem in early care and education in the United States. What that problem is depends on which lens you're wearing when you look at it.
Are you looking at the problem as a parent, an early childhood professional, or both? Are you an Administrator? Head Start Teacher? Head Start Staff? Family Childcare Provider? Grandparent? Nanny? Babysitter? Tutor?
From your unique lens, does child care and education cost too much or pay too little?
From my unique perspective, as one who's held all of those titles at one time or another, I say both the price of high-quality care and compensation for its workforce are bordering on ridiculous.
But whose problem is it? Who pays the price? Who are the stakeholders? Here's a story that illustrates the point well.
It's voting day in Hodag, Wisconsin. An elderly couple discusses politics during breakfast. On the ballot today is a referendum concerning a proposed beverage tax designed to fund early childhood education in Hodag County.
Recent school violence issues have left the city wondering if enhancing its early childhood education programs may have a positive effect on reducing violent crime. Brain research has shown promise for such programs and many educators and parents in town are supporting the referendum enthusiastically.
But the older couple isn't so sure about the merits of such a tax. Since they have no children or grandchildren of their own, they feel that a tax like this would punish them for other people's problems.
Unfortunately, while crossing the street on the way to the polling place, the couple is struck down by a car running a red light during a police chase. A bystander stops to help. He's a doctor on his way to work and he successfully performs CPR on the woman while waiting for the ambulance to arrive.
He advises the man to remain still because it appears his hip may be fractured. After being transported to the hospital, the ER physicians tell the man that his wife is stable and that he'll need emergency hip surgery. Luckily for him, the best surgeon in the state will be available to perform the surgery shortly. He just arrived at the hospital and is prepping for the surgery now.
While recovering, the man meets his surgeon and realizes that he's the same man who saved his wife's life by performing CPR after the accident.
The man thanks the doctor profusely and asks him about his past training and how he became such an amazing human being. The doctor explains that although he was raised by a young, single mother, she had the wherewithal to enroll him in an early childhood program in which he not only learned how to learn but also how to help others with his skills and talents.
So when the injured man was able to vote in the hospital later that day, he most definitely cast his vote for the early childhood program he cut down earlier.
After the hit-and-run driver was caught and convicted, it was discovered that he was abused and neglected during his early childhood. He did not receive any early childhood services in the impoverished county in which he lived. He had a long history of arrests.
From that point forward the elderly couple used their influence to spread the word about the effects of early childhood education and even spent some time volunteering in high-quality programs.
The story, although fictional, shows us that everyone pays the price when early childhood is neglected. It also shows how everyone is affected in a positive way when high-quality early childhood education is provided. It's essential for the health of the nation and of the world.
The stakeholders are all of us.
Unfortunately, early childhood caregivers and educators have been marginalized for so many years by society that some of us have turned against each other and we've become somewhat fractioned. But if we want to move forward and make changes for the better in ECE, we're going to have to put aside our difficulties and build something new that works for everyone.
Let's work together to make 2024 the year that early childhood brain research begins to guide policy. The gap between theory and practice Is too large when we look at the experiences children are receiving on a day-to-day basis.
What can you do now?
Join us and stay connected.
Read next week's post. It just might hold the answer to building more empathy in an unempathetic world.
Thanks so much for stopping by today! Nanci
Nanci J Bradley is an early childhood and family educator, author, teacher, family aerobics instructor, and an all-around fun-loving person. She believes in the power of sleep, healthy eating, lifelong learning, and most of all, PLAY! She studied early childhood education at Triton College and received her BS in education in 1986 from NIU. She received her MA in human development from Pacific Oaks College in 2010. She has presented at state and national early childhood conferences.
She lives and teaches in Madison WI.