It’s hard to believe that it’s been two years since I declared 2020 the Year of Early Childhood Education!
And one year ago, in the midst of the January 6th insurrection at the Capitol, I doubled down on a bet that early childhood could save the world (if we let it). Maybe it’s the pull of a new year that inspires to me make these bold proclamations. And despite 2020 being the year that COVID 19 fundamentally altered our lives, and my vision of an early childhood education that empowers young children to embrace their natural talents as curious self-determined active learners did not materialize in 2021, I enter 2022 hopeful that all this and more remains in our grasp.
But I would be remiss to paint a rosy picture of 2022, without addressing the challenges, new and old, that we must tackle.
Many of us truly believed that we could emerge from the pandemic with an opportunity to not go back to way things were, not return to normal because normal wasn’t working. Yet here we are in 2022, almost three years into the pandemic, with the omicron variant raging and it feels like we learned nothing about the necessary steps needed to mitigate the spread of a deadly virus. Early childhood centers and schools across the country are facing massive teacher and staff shortages as the virus spreads and we continue to argue in silos whether schools should remain open despite the threat to our health and safety.
And I recognize that there are no easy answers to the ongoing crisis, but I do believe our approach of either/ or is not the answer.
Either we close schools and go remote or we keep schools open and deputize anyone with a pulse to teach can not be our only options. Early childhood professionals know the danger of either/or thinking and so we strive for both. Some schools need to be closed to stop the spread and some schools need to be kept open for children who cannot stay home. If we accept both as true, then we create plans for a both situations. We recognize that remote/virtual learning did not meet the needs of all children and families, and we need a remote/virtual option for some families. We can learn from what didn’t work when we moved to remote/virtual learning in March 2020 and make improvements for when we need to go back. Or we can refuse to even entertain a remote option and keep schools open and pretend that learning is happening in overcrowded combined classes while children sick at home get nothing. The only either/or thinking I will accept is this: either we learn from the past or we are doomed to repeat it.
And if the pandemic is not enough, we have a resurgence of a vocal minority attacking teachers, disrupting school board meetings, and writing legislation to prevent teaching the truth about our country.
To them, we either love this flawless country or we hate this country because all we see are flaws. We either accept blind patriotism and the racial caste system or we are traitorous equity warriors. We either teach unquestioning loyalty through one-sided history lessons or we indoctrinate students into critical thinking and diverse perspectives. I love the potential this country has always had and hate that it has repeatedly failed to live up to it. I love that so many people fight hard to make this country a bastion of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness for EVERYONE and hate that so many wish to deny their humanity to those who don’t look like them, pray like them, and love like them. I love that history gives us counternarratives so we can center marginalized voices and hate that some are so threatened by diversity they misuse our belief in freedom to divide and conquer.
So, what can we do to build a new better normal?
We learn from history, so we don’t repeat it. We remember that we’ve been in similar situations before as other viruses spread and we came together to fight them. We recognize that the CRT boogeyman feels a lot like the communist boogeyman during the McCarthy era. We remember how teachers, parents, and children came together in solidarity and used mutual aid to support each other during tough times. We realize that we have collective power to care for each other even when our elected officials refuse. We understand that education doesn’t stop even when schooling must. And we continue to fight for our vision for early childhood education and a vision for our country that gives us hope for a future we believe is possible. Most importantly, we do it together because we need each other, and the world needs us.
what can you do?
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