A week ago I posted, somewhat facetiously, about "womb to classwoom" requirements for babies and young children. At the end of the piece, I wrote, concerning the NEA’s desire for the ranks of teachers to increase annually by 2%, "Now, if the ranks of teachers are to grow, where might those teachers come from? Womb to classwoom ring any bells?"
I’m behind the curve. This article from 2004, just came across my screen from the Universal Preschool email list. The push for including teachers-of-the-very-young (I have an aversion to the word "preschool," as if the lives of young children are quantified only in relation to school) to be included in the ranks of school teachers, is not a new one.
- USA Today, McLean, Virginia, 28 July 2004, It’s as simple as ABC: Preschool teachers should have a B.A.
Only 35% of public elementary schools last year offered pre-kindergarten classes, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Private programs took up much of the slack.
"The way we do it right now, it seemingly is in lots of parents’ self-interest to go on the cheap," he says. "What we are saying is, ‘Enough of that.’ I think it’s got to be a public investment."
Parents self-interestedly not supporting those who have decided to go into a job field? The nerve! Get those babies and toddlers out there. Up and at ‘em! Hit the deck! Hut, two, hut, two! Let’s get a move on!
Again we see the concept that families serve schools, and the school job-market, and not the other way around. Why isn’t the meme that the schools serve the children?
Then there is the lack of respect shown to parents, especially parents who may not have had the advantages of at least a middle class upbringing, and the wherewithal to attend college.
- "It’s a great day for early childhood (education)," says Libby Doggett of the Trust for Early Education, a Washington-based advocacy group. "Working with young children is very, very sophisticated work. It’s not something that someone who has a GED and nine hours of training can do."
And how did the human race get to where it is without all those very, very sophisticated people-with-degrees running the show?
What this statement misses is that by working with their own children, with the social expectation that parents will be their child’s first teachers, is that when parents raise their own children in the spirit of a family educational adventure, those parents educate themselves as well as their children. The benefit is exponential rather than arithmetical. It isn’t just that groups of individual children are being educated, but in a parent-child educational situation, the entire family benefits. The learning goes both ways. And on the cheap, too. No B.A. degrees required. But, in this discussion, whose voice is louder? That of a spokeswoman for a Washington-based advocacy group, or that of a younger, working-class parent staying home to raise the family’s children? Who will be heard? Who will be believed?
In the article, teachers are praised for figuring out how to recognize "learning situations," but this phenomenon is not restricted only to the Trained. Is the message one of "don’t try this at home?"
- Lorraine Cooke, director of Egenolf Early Childhood Center in Elizabeth, N.J., says she has seen "dramatic differences" in teachers who received the training. "They make a learning situation out of every single incident — it’s just fabulous."
Despite our lack of official training, the same phenomenon is reported by homeschooling parents. And we, too, think it’s fabu.
Once the "only a professional can educate" fetters are removed from the minds of parents, opportunities present themselves so that the parents share a fuller relationship with their children. What used to be seen as something to be learned only at school, now becomes a family learning experience. For these families, this situation is win-win.
But we mustn’t forget the advice to "follow the money."
- But she says the proposal’s costs could mean the end of private programs that serve low- and middle-income families — and that government and business support is essential to these families.
"They’re not going to be able to afford it," she says.
They especially won’t be able to afford it if taxes are raised to pay for "womb to classwoom" services.
Families are not in the business of breeding in order to provide users-of-services to schools. Children are not edu-fodder. But with higher taxes to pay for social services, parents may have no other choice but to work longer hours to make a living, and use ‘government benefits’ for the children to stretch their paychecks. We have no German-style system of Kindergeld (see page 10), a system of cash payments for parents to spend as they wish. No, these education programs for the very young will be professionally staffed, supervised, and administered. For these families, the situation is lose-lose.
Instead of pulling families apart, which is what happens when everyone, from the babies to the mamas and papas, gets up at the crack of dawn to go to their assigned places of duty, whether at work or school, we, as a society, should be looking at ways to strengthen our families, not separate them. Re-villaging our communities could be one way, so that a family could manage with only one car. Mass-transit in urban areas could be used that same way. Community parks within walking distances, and not situated away from living areas on the other side of five- or six-lane roads within towns would be a benefit.
Progress doesn’t have to be complicated. Sometimes simple things, such as parents being their children’s first teacher, work better than the fancy solutions to self-inflicted problems.