Teach the preschoolers

Preschoolers, lollipopsThis month Save the Children published its 2011 State of the World’s Mothers report, and the results show that we in the U.S. have a lot of work to do.

The report examines conditions for mothers in 164 countries because “the quality of children’s lives depends on the health, security, and well-being of their mothers.” Each country is rated according to these factors: lifetime risk of maternal death, percent of women using modern contraception, female life expectancy at birth, number of years of formal female schooling,  maternity leave benefits, ratio of female to male earned income, participation of women in national government, under-5 mortality rate, gross pre-primary enrollment ratio, gross secondary enrollment ratio.

Norway and Australia top the list, and Afghanistan and Niger are on the bottom. The U.S. is ranked 31st, just after Poland and Slovakia. The report explains why:

  • The United States’ rate for maternal mortality is 1 in 2,100 – the highest of any industrialized nation. A woman in the U.S. is more than 7 times as likely as a woman in Italy or Ireland to die from pregnancy-related causes, and her risk of maternal death is 15 times that of a woman in Greece.
  • The U.S. under-5 mortality rate is ranked 40th at 8 per 1,000 births. An American child is more than twice as likely as a child in Finland, Greece, Iceland, Japan, Luxembourg, Norway, Slovenia, Singapore or Sweden to die before reaching age 5.
  • Only 58 percent of children in the United States are enrolled in preschool – making it the fifth lowest country in the developed world on this indicator.
  • The United States has the least generous maternity leave policy – both in terms of duration and percent of wages paid – of any wealthy nation.
  • Only 17 percent of congressional seats in the U.S. are held by women, compared to 45 percent in Sweden and 43 percent in Iceland.

All of those statistics are disappointing, but  as developers of curriculum, we zeroed in on the fact that only 58% of our children go to preschool.

We know early-childhood care and education helps children grow into healthy, successful adults, in addition to offering much-needed support to working parents. Preschool teaches children how to achieve goals in a structured environment, but it also teaches them how to interact with others. Preschool is where kids get their first in-depth experience of the outside world and its joys and challenges. They learn trustworthiness and fairness by learning how to share with others. They learn responsibility and good citizenship by learning how to clean up after themselves. They learn caring and respect by building friendships with their peers.

S0 why are we making early-childhood education harder to get instead of easier? Business Week reports that state funding of preschool fell by nearly $30 million last year. Meanwhile, the House of Representatives has proposed to cut $1.1 billion from early-childhood education. According to The Beacon News, the cuts will eliminate early-childhood services for 218,000 children and force 16,000 Head Start and Early Head Start classrooms to shut down.

No matter what the deficit clock says, these cuts are wrong. The success of our country depends on the success of our children, and we need to work harder to give all children access to early-childhood education.

* If you want some help teaching good character to your preschoolers, download these handouts:

Six Pillars for Preschoolers

Five Things Parents Can Do to Bring the Six Pillars Home

Tips for Parents

Download the State of the World’s Mothers report here.

4 thoughts on “Teach the preschoolers”

  1. It’s disgraceful that a country full of so much wealth allows so many of its people to suffer like this. We are well on our way to becoming just another banana republic!

  2. I am disappointed, in an otherwise exemplary program, to hear the sentiment that children who stay at home with their mothers, rather than attending preschool, are somehow being abused. This is not necessarily their first in-depth experience in the outside world, they can–and do–learn structure at home, and can be taught how to interact with neighborhood children, in church and community activities, and with extended family. To suggest that preschool is the only, or best, way for “children grow into healthy, successful adults,” learn trustworthiness, responsibility, etc is a slap in the face to families who are being productive and fiscally responsible enough to have the income to accommodate a parent staying at home. Additionally, Head Start is income-based, so this alone is not a good indicator of whether or not preschoolers are enrolled in a preschool program. I understand that this is a school site, but I remember a decade or so ago when the political ball was in the corner of stay-at-home moms.

  3. I believe that promoting preschool undermines what CharacterCounts purports to promote. Specifically good character, here is why. Toddler’s brains are not ready for retaining data for the purpose of retaining data. You can teach them math and reading but they will soon have to learn it again because they are developmentally not there. What they are ripe for learning though is character. How to act in society. This is something that must be learned from a loving parent in the home not from a staff member who may be caring but can’t possibly be loving to an entire group of kids. Good character especially cannot be learned from spending vast amount of time with peers who also have not learned good character yet.

    As for the “study” mentioned here. It sights women’s involvement in government as an indicator of a nurturing environment for kids. Need I remind everyone that the involvement of women in government is now mandatory in Iraq and Afghanistan, they are certainly no example to follow.

    Let’s be real as to what this is about. It’s about increasing the number of public sector union jobs so dues can be skimmed off for the democratic party and to buy votes by offering a form of free daycare.

  4. The point is that the US has the highest rates of infant/child abuse in the industrialized world and parenting skills are lacking due to high levels of poverty, low education, and yes, a perception that the state should not interfere.
    While pre-school is not the only option (something that was never stated in this piece), for many it is the best option. Specifically, when it is not necessarily due to being fiscally responsible, as one comment puts it, but rather a fact that many find themselves in a financial situation where having one parent at home is not possible, and with the US having the least amount of time for maternity leave, day care of some sort is the only reality.
    Nor does the report need to be discussed in inverted commas.
    The study was conducted by a British charity, Save the Children, which is a UK based charity and has nothing to do with any politicking in the US, so the claim that this is about increasing the number of public sector jobs is useless.
    The report does not cite women’s involvement in government as an indicator of a nurturing environment, so that typically narrow-minded view about Iraq and Afghanistan has no place in relation to this article either.
    As a daycare provider I can assure you that staff members can be loving to an entire group of kids, and in many cases is the main source of love that many kids get.

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