The above link provides an opportunity to view the live-streamed event that I attended yesterday at the New America Foundation which focused on the “hell of American daycare” and an examination of potential strategies to improve our early education system more broadly. The conversation highlighted Jonathan Cohn, Senior Editor of The New Republic and author of the article titled “The Hell of American Daycare” in April, whom I had the good fortune of exchanging a few words with while riding the elevator en route to the panel presentation. Cohn, who has written about national politics and its impact on American communities for the past decade, presented his findings about the state of American daycare and childcare, in general, as well as provided comments about his own and his working spouse’s and others’ experiences in finding childcare for their children. He then joined a panel discussion with Karen Kornbluh, Former Ambassador for the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development, Lisa Guernsey, Director of the Early Education Initiative at the New America Foundation, and Brigid Schulte, Schwartz Fellow for the New America Foundation and Reporter for the Washington Post, which was moderated by Reid Cramer, Director of the Asset Building Program at the New America Foundation.
Some of the highlights for me that were discussed during the event that I believe should continue to be discussed by American parents, caregivers, family members, researchers, politicians, community members and many others included:
1) There is a need to explore whether daycare is actually good for kids or not.
2) There is a need to establish standards and resources now with regard to childcare in the United States so that they can become a reality a few years from now.
3) American workers need childcare in order for economic growth to happen in the United States.
4) The United States continues to perform terribly as a nation in math, science and reading because we don’t value early education like other countries do.
5) A child’s early education directly affects what he/she will “look like” at 15 years old.
6) Over a quarter of kids in the United States live in single parent households and those single parents have significant childcare needs.
7) The United States is the only country where public education exacerbates social mobility issues.
8) Americans are pessimistic about what government can do for them and that we need to build hope that change can happen for children and families and for the nation as a whole from an economic growth potential standpoint.
9) Having women as part of the workforce and an educated workforce will pay off “big time” for us as a nation in the future.
10) There is a prevailing attitude in the United States that it is not a government problem when parents/families can’t find adequate, quality care for children, but that it is parents’/families’ problem.
11) This conversation is not simply about moms and children. It’s about men, families, communities and our society.
12) 14 states so far are part of the Early Learning Challenge grant program. These states are working towards rating centers using a star rating system, using observation tools for better quality care, and using coaches to review video tapes with caregivers as an opportunity to discuss improved quality of care.
13) There are nurse-family partner and home-visiting programs which have been shown to be very successful in helping families meet the needs of young children (e.g., school readiness, nutrition, etc.).
14) The days of “work” being a place a breadwinner goes for a certain number of hours a day and then leaves in order to come home to a person who is taking care of children and family matters are over. It’s time to change the conversation and focus on what the realities are for American workers.
15) We need to change the argument in the United States in terms of what does it mean to be a family and a worker today. We need a shift away from thinking of raising a child in the United States as a private good versus a public good. We need to think about changing beliefs and attitudes for this all as a human capital argument.