Out of the mouths of the experts designing our new expanded prekindergarten program.
“We’re trying to ensure all children are ready to learn when they get to school,” said Neera Tanden, the president and CEO of the think tank and a former top policy official in the Obama administration. “Investing in early learning and pre-K is the best investment that we can make. The return on investment is significant.”
What does Neera Tandeny think little children are doing from the time they leave the womb until they arrive in a 3 year old, 4 year old or 5 year old classroom??? We used to try and figure out how we could keep the miraculous learning that ALL children engage in from birth to 5 alive and well after they get to school. Make a list of everything they know and know how to do that they didn’t at the time of birth. Even the most backward “talkers” are developing a vocabulary (regardless of dialect, et al) that we’d think inconceivable if we tried to provide for it by direct instruction. We are a specie that has no choice but to be learners, except under the most extreme forms of sensory deprivation.
If we don’t acknowledge this, and appreciate it we can’t be effective allies if are not learners ourselves. We must meet children with pleasure and pride at what they HAVE accomplished, not a list of remedial tasks to compensate for what they haven’t. We must join with them as learners, as most mothers seem to know how to do instinctively. Joining with, learning alongside, partnering, enjoying–that’s the language of good early childhood interactions between adults and children.
Then–above and beyond–we need to address as a society the deprivations that poverty itself inflicts–in country of great wealth we have the most astounding percentage of children in deep poverty. We outdo the developed world in poverty, malnutrition and incarceration! That’s a huge and critical investment that shouldn’t get mindlessly “added to” a good classroom. It needs the collaboration of parents and teachers, but the expertise of a society that already knows what it means to have good housing, good medical care, and neighborhood safety–but that isn’t getting to about 25% of its children. Let’s not burden them or their teachers further by trying “to teach them to learn”.
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