I’ve been working on gratitude lately…trying to wake up every morning and say what I am grateful for. I begin with a long list of personal thank you’s to generous family and friends, staff and colleagues. I then turn to the field of early childhood and find myself giddy with gratitude. Over the past year, there has been a sweet chorus of voices singing the praises of one strategy that will fix education, close the achievement gap, increase high school graduation rates, reduce crime, help working parents, create the workforce of the future, and sustain the economy. I am talking about early childhood education.
On this Thanksgiving (and Hanukkah), let us properly thank those worthy of our gratitude for promoting early childhood education:
President Obama, State of the Union
“We know this works. So let’s do what works and make sure none of our children start the race of life already behind.”
Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education
“Some kids come to kindergarten reading fluently, while others don’t know the front of the book from the back of the book. If we could level the playing field … we could really start talking about every child going on to college.”
New York State Education Reform Commission
“The education pipeline begins for a student at birth…The research shows that early intervention in a child’s life does make a profound difference in every other subsequent educational intervention.”
Nicholas Kristof, New York Times, October 26, 2013
“Growing mountains of research suggest that the best way to address American economic inequality, poverty and crime is — you guessed it! — early education programs, including coaching of parents who want help. It’s not a magic wand, but it’s the best tool we have to break cycles of poverty. “
“And the more I learn about the new research in the field, the more I am convinced that this is an issue vital to the future competitiveness of our country, the strength of our families, and the health of our communities…All our kids deserve the chance to start life on an equal playing field. They’re too small to fail, so let’s help them succeed.”
Bill de Blasio, Mayor-elect of New York City
“I today stand before you ready to mount a strong consistent fight…I have not offered a small band aid solution…I have offered a game changing investment in early childhood and after school. Nothing less will do.”
I know, I know. This is just rhetoric. We have not seen the funding that is needed for comprehensive family supports and early childhood education that will accomplish that range of lofty goals, i.e. curing all of society’s ills – yet. It’s out there in the universe in a way that it has never been before. I predict the big investments will be forthcoming. As to whether they will accomplish their goals depends a lot on how we do it, but we also know more than we ever have before about what works – especially if we listen to local community leaders. So, I say, at least for a few days over the holidays, where we take time to think about what we are grateful for, listen to the voices of a growing number of enlightened leaders who are saying the right things. Then, after the triptophane high wears off, take action and hold them all accountable.