Let Us Speak 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.
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. 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.
It could be that early childhood was a time when those who tend to young children cooperatively endeavor to evolve spaces for mutual betterment, guided by an ethic of discovery and agreement—not by external expertise, tradition, or the academy, nor constrained by fear or power.
A stewardship of children might well enable a dedication to stewardship of the planet.
We might be able to discover a better path for human ingenuity if we actually could spend time—enabled by unencumbered resources—for 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.
It’s like growing a garden. Effective caretakers think about the biology of the roots when gardening, not the visible part of the plant above ground. We all know our roots, what nourishes us, but we keep arguing about espaliers, pollarding, scaffolding, and pruning what’s above ground when thinking of spaces for children.
We have to create another way to talk about the birth to seven years for growing humans in order to address the needs of life on this planet. We need a new language to enable us to invest in what we know in our hearts all children need. We then can rediscover the conditions for optimal health through direct observation, explict protocols for analysis of events, ensure participatory, democratic belonging, and enable wisdom and love to guide the evolution of what enhances the growth underground. This new language and new kind of story could start if we discussed how essential it was for life.
To that the end, I offer the approach of coming together around the world to make 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.
Could you imagine the world if all children by age seven had these Sixteen Capabilities?
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.