Why We Must Protect Childhood from a Resurgence of Bad Ideas

We are only 41 days into 2022 and the resurgence of bad ideas is everywhere.

Some of these ideas began in 2021, while others were reborn after disappearing from earlier times.

Nonetheless, as we watch multiple state legislatures turn these bad ideas into laws, we must be explicit in our beliefs that these bad ideas are a threat to childhood.

As protectors of childhood, we have a duty to resist bad ideas, policies, and laws and be as vocal in our resistance as the proponents are in their insistence.

Though the effects of standardized testing have permeated certain aspects of childhood, young children typically are immune to mandated standardized testing.

When the testing accountability era began with No Child Left Behind, children below third grade escaped the yearly testing requirement.

This does not mean young children are not subject to many assessments as many schools give practice tests to first graders, but children in grades K-2 rarely take national standardized tests.

Five days into the new year, a proponent of standardized testing argues for beginning the NAEP (National Assessment of Education Progress) tests in kindergarten.

He argues that since advances in technology make it feasible to mass test young children on iPads and computers, we should collect more data in the early years.

Though many feel that NAEP is a good standardized test because it only tests a sample of students, even if this bad idea became the norm, it would only impact a sample of young children.

A threat to some children’s childhood is a threat to all children’s childhood.

Testing children in kindergarten is a bad idea, period.

We do not need more tests to know what young children learn in school.

More tests lead to more scripted curriculums, teacher-led instruction, and less time to play, explore, and discover.

As education blogger, Nancy E. Baily reminds us,

The best assessment of this age group is accomplished through observation, by well-prepared early childhood educators who understand the appropriate development of children this age, who can collect observational data through notes and checklists as children play and socialize with their peers.” Protecting childhood means resisting this bad idea, even if the test is less harmful than other tests.

I hoped book banning would remain a relic of the 20th and 19th centuries, but alas, it has resurged as a bad idea in the 21st century.

Stemming from the attacks on critical race theory calls to ban books from public schools are rising.

Though many of the proposed banned books are gaining new readers, we should be concerned with these attempts to deny knowledge to children.

We need to advocate for more books, not less, especially books that tell stories from diverse experiences and support readers in developing empathy and critical thinking.

Banning books has never solved a problem, and today it only reminds us that many people are scared of the truth.

Fear mongering is a threat to childhood, and we must stand firm in our support for children having access to more knowledge, not less.

As if teachers did not already have enough to do, now in states like Indiana, they may soon be required to produce all their lessons plans for the year to a committee for inspection.

Not only are there three proposed bills to prevent teachers from teaching truth, aka “divisive concepts,” but now the Indiana lawmakers want to further strip teachers from their autonomy and pedagogy and create additional surveillance measures.

Indiana is not the only state entertaining this bad idea, and based on our current trajectory, they may not be the last.

Soon all these states will share another unique aspect: a mass exodus of teachers.

I was recently asked what parents and community members can do to support teachers, and my response was simple:

trust them!

We require so much education and training from prospective teachers, but when we put them in place to do the job we trained them to do, we make it clear we do not trust them to do it.

School districts buy “fool-proof” lesson plans and textbooks that provide detailed scripts for what teachers should say at all times.

They bring in so-called experts to push more products and systems on teachers that take up valuable time teachers do not have.

All of this amounts to a lack of trust in teachers and a failure to believe that teachers care deeply about children and know how to support their learning and development.

As in any profession, bad teachers exist and do not belong in any classroom.

However, if we assume teachers are incompetent or untrustworthy, then the social experiment we know as public education has failed from the start.

I believe most parents trust their child’s teacher and support them despite the attacks on education, but we need that support to be loud and clear.

We need massive coalitions of parents shouting their support for teachers and the vital work they do every day.

Protecting childhood means protecting those who greatly influence childhood: teachers and families.

I expect these bad ideas to stick around and possibly make new friends.

Nevertheless, I remain hopeful that there are more good ideas out there, and with time and a steadfast commitment to protecting childhood, we can allow them to take root and grow!


Did you miss DEY’s 2021 co-sponsored Black Lives Matter in School: Early Childhood Edition webinar? You can watch it here.

Save the date for the fourth annual DEY Summer Institute! July 27th-29th.

Did you hear about our new DEY podcast hosted by Kisha Reid?

Have you seen our Advocacy Map? If you know of an early childhood advocacy organization or legislation, please submit it today.

Do you need some funding to engage in community action? Apply for a DEY Mini-Grant.

Are you concerned about the direction that education policy is going? Please consider donating to support DEY’s important work advocating for appropriate education for young children.