Social Justice in Early Childhood

Issues related to culture, equity, and social justice are woven throughout the field of early childhood education. I suspect that this is one of the reasons that ECE is such a hot-button issue in the current policy climate. Americans hold a variety of perspectives on the meaning of culture and equity as well as the definition of what makes a worthy social justice issue. Building consensus and understanding around these issues is necessary in order for our society to properly support children and families.

My goals as a professional in early childhood education are tied to the goals I have for the early childhood profession as a whole. I want to help influence a sensible approach to this necessary facet of our communities that includes a two-generation support system for children and their parents. I have been dismayed at some of the rhetoric I hear from some politicians regarding early childhood education.

It appears that there are some leaders with a sincerely held belief that early childhood education programs are an assault on the traditional American family. Just this week a state senator from Colorado spoke to this in a committee hearing on proposed reforms for the Child Care Assistance Program that helps to subsidize child care for Colorado’s low-income families. Senator Kevin Lundberg spoke of this “belief” that children are better off if they aren’t at home with their parents and we are all subsidizing it. I found this perspective to be strange. I don’t think many people think that, except in the most extreme situations, children are better off with anyone other than their parents. However, it is simply not the reality in America today that parents can stay home with their children.

According to the US Department of Labor, in 1968 a full-time minimum wage job as enough to support a family of three. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that this isn’t even close to possible anymore. For those families that are fortunate enough to have two loving adults in the home raising the children, few are in the position to have only one of those adults bringing home an income. Two income households are a majority reality in America today. Furthermore, many households are headed by a single parent. In the event that someone finds themselves raising their children alone they often have two choices: to either work or go to school while getting some subsidized help as they improve their family situation or go on full-blown welfare and do their best to stay on it. Occasionally there are single parents who can make everything work without any help, but this is simply not the reality.

When I hear people say that the government has no business funding or supporting early childhood education programs, I feel disappointed. We have a responsibility as a society to make sure that we are taking care of our children and we are helping our citizens be empowered to work and contribute to our economic vitality. There is no assault on the traditional American family underway. Instead, we are working towards a shift in societal perspectives that allows for recognition of the fact that there are a lot of acceptable constructs of the American family that lie outside of the expected construct of one man and one woman with a handful of typically developing biological children. Our families are varied and worthwhile. It is in the best interests of our society that we find ways to support children and families so that everyone is learning and working purposefully. These are admirable goals for a community.

My professional path is one that leads towards greater understanding and justice for our tiniest citizens who do not have a voice for themselves and their parents who are to immersed in supporting their families to be actively involved in public policy issues. I am grateful for all of the early childhood professionals who are on this path with me and are helping me discover how to understand and advocate to the best of my abilities. Together we will be able to do so much to change the landscape for the better for our children and families.

~ by vegucationmama on April 27, 2014.

One Response to “Social Justice in Early Childhood”

  1. As an ultra-traditionalist, I favor Maria Montessori’s vision of substituting the mixed-age classroom for the deficiencies found in the modern small, nuclear (no cousins) family where one or both parents work outside of the home. But I also favor keeping government out of education.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: