“In the past few decades, early childhood teachers have felt the pressure of increased accountability, testing, academic standards and ‘push down’ curriculum,” writes Carol Garboden Murray in her opus, Illuminating Care. She continues:
I imagine the reverse—and think about what our elementary and high schools could be if early childhood teachers could push the basic principles of quality early childhood education back up. Imagine if play and care, movement, and experiential learning could spread upwards into the elementary school, middle school and creep right on up to high school too. Imagine how empathy would grow and connectivity and belonging would spread in our communities if care was a core value in elementary, middle school, high school and college.
What we know is that we are the starting point. As the first school, we have the first opportunity and responsibility to demonstrate that caring is teaching. We build the foundation for care and we have influence. We can look at care from many sides in our work as early childhood teachers—in the way our attentiveness to care shapes the child, in the way we will design curriculum and teach caring, and in our connection to families, as we design days spent with young children so that parents can go to work. Throughout my career, I can’t count the number of times moms and dads have come to me and said, “I just couldn’t have done it without you: I couldn’t have paid the rent, I could have never finished my college degree, I could have never written my book, and I couldn’t have completed this new project at work. Thank you, we could not have done it without your care!”
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Thanks for your thoughts, Francis. Yes, the trends have been increasingly toward pushing down, which is exactly why I wanted to share Carol's words on 'pushing up' and will continue to raise the banner of what we have seen good care and early years experiences are all about - grounded in relationships with caring adults who themselves are cared for and about. The more we can unify as a field, the more effectively we can 'push out' that perspective into the world.
I struggle with this. I fully agree with the concept, but everything in our field is going in the opposite direction! Many will have seen the governor of Colorado's comments that too many parents wanted their children to use the new PK program in Colorado "just for day care". And he slammed them! Clearly the new push for universal PreK is going to focus on inappropriate academic skills. Unfortunately, I think one can blame Head Start for some of the problem (i.e., giving children a Head Start in school). Also, blame can be placed on ECE standards, which have focused on inappropriate academic skill learning. Maybe we can start by revising all of these standards (I think NAEYC is in the process of doing so).