Speaking Up for Children
It seems to me we do not have integrity when we work to honor the child and do not work to honor the teachers.
The time is now for a broad international movement to deconstruct system that has starved and constrained societal efforts to invest in the early education of young children and to alter the power structures that constrain human beings from participating in the social institutions that care for and educate young children and their families.
Could we ever evolve a view of children and childhood before age 6 or 7 as an essential subsequent, equally nourishing, social womb for optimizing these first years of human growth? If we think of how dedicated we become as parents from conception to the age when children walk and start talking, could we imagine our community dedicating resources and making commitments to lead and care for all children until they reach the age for common school. It could alter how human beings care for ecosystems that keep life on this planet.
It could be that we all agree that community and love enable experiences of interdependence and rich encounters, locally grown, guided by the study of these particular children, the ones we know and love, in this place. It could be that we agree that it is essential in order to be fully human to ensure the full optimization of human capabilities in order to care for the world.
We might be able to discover a better path for human ingenuity if we actually could spend time—enabled by unencumbered resources—discovering what optimizes experiences for young humans and those who tend to them.
Tom Hobson’s democratic, cooperative, Woodland Park Preschool was an example of a locally created school devoted to growing human beings without shaping them. It provided a safe community where the adults expect to learn from each other and from the children. The cooperative created an opportunity for children and their parents to grow together with others. It was messy and human.
At this existential turning point in human existence and planet health, we ought to work quickly to create another way to talk about the birth to seven years for growing humans to be better stewards of life. We then can rediscover the conditions for optimal health to enable wisdom and love to guide the evolution of a new kind of story about how we raise our young.
This new vision of investment in the world’s children might be able to start if we discussed how essential the ages 3 to 6 were for life—all of life. To that the end, I recommend that we start with a list of what we dream of children becoming by age 7, at the end of their early childhood years, at the point where they become active agents in the larger world.
Here is such a list. Could you imagine the world if all children by age seven had these Sixteen Capabilities? Will you help by leading others in creating other lists like this in other cultures? Could you suggest a foundation that would take on this effort?
If you were a child in your own program, how would you want to be treated? The Foundation 15 is a summary of class constructions created by students at North Seattle College collected over a 6 year period. Their thoughts remind us of our challenge to feed the right wolf.
If you have those two tasks above, you can add this.
- BELONGING We ensure the perception of being included.
- WELL-BEING We offer an ethics of care for health in all its dimensions.
- RECIPROCITY We are becoming and changing in a passionate, compassionate, and aesthetic relationship with those whose lives we wish to enhance.
- PARTICIPATION We invite the participation of all into creating our possibility and defining our opportunity in spaces that are open and somewhat indefinite.
- JOY We playfully open up and take in to experience our relatedness.
- WHOLENESS We conceive of others as whole, capable human beings connected to others.
- TRUST We listen carefully to discover the ways of being of others as we stay truthful ourselves.