Elliot’s Provocations unpacks current events in the early learning world and explores how we can chart a path to a future where all children can flourish. Regarding the title, if you’re not steeped in early childhood education (ECE) lingo, a “provocation” is the field’s term—taken from the Reggio-Emilia philosophy of early education—for offering someone the opportunity to engage with an idea.
We hope this monthly column does that: provocations are certainly not answers, but we hope Elliot’s Provocations helps you pause and consider concepts in a different way.
For my last column of the year, I want to touch on a less-discussed but not-unimportant question: what in the heck should we call the care and education of children during the first five years of their life?
As I travel internationally, I have been thinking a lot about how we position child care in the United States. I am increasingly concerned by an ascendant school of thought that emphasizes a role for employer-sponsored child care benefits.
What, in the end, do we want young children (and young parents) to be ready for? For a nation that forces you to run a race before your legs can even hold your own weight, or a nation that says ‘we’ve got you, take your time’?
Back in May, I had the privilege to present the closing keynote address at the Child Care Services Association annual conference in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. One point that several attendees told me resonated was when I showed that you can make many different arguments for child care, although advocates tend to focus primarily on only a few.
The U.S. child care system falls deeper into crisis with every passing day. The sector is still missing 100,000 educators compared to before the pandemic, and amid a competitive labor market, the staffing recovery has slowed to a crawl.
Child care has traditionally been a politically quiet sector. I don’t mean there hasn’t been resolute advocacy, but that has largely (though certainly not entirely) happened behind the scenes -- at least in the U.S. there isn’t a long history of major public actions such as protests and strikes.