Cornelia Grumman, executive director of the First Five Years Fund, offered a “playful” way of thinking about early education on NBC’s Education Nation recent panel discussion on early learning. “I do call it the bobble head issue of education. A lot of people nod their heads and say, ‘Oh yes that’s important,’ but I don’t think they really fully understand that this is actually critical to meeting our education goals. If you want to meet third grade reading goals you need to start at birth, not just at pre-kindergarten, age 3 and 4, but really at birth on for the most at-risk kids,” Grumman said. (View the video.)
“We want to see policymakers, administrators, and politicians actually make political tradeoffs and sacrifices to make sure early education is part of all these conversations. Whether it’s high school graduation or college completion, early education has to be a piece of that.”
The panel offered a good complement to the Education Nation segment on neuroscience that I wrote about last month. In addition to Grumman, the panelists were: Elanna Yalow, executive vice-president of Knowledge Universe-US, a company that operates more than 3,700 preschools globally; Gayle Cunningham, executive director of the Jefferson County (AL) Committee for Economic Opportunity Head Start; Ron Haskins, co-director of the Brookings Institution’s Center on Children and Families; actress Jennifer Garner, an artist ambassador for Save the Children; and Erika Ellis, a teacher in North Carolina.
Topics discussed included the Early Learning Challenge, Head Start and family engagement.
Garner and her Cambridge-bred husband, actor Ben Affleck, are expecting their third child. “I am here to preach what they practice,” she said, with a nod to her fellow panelists. “The role of the parent is primarily about establishing and nurturing that relationship. It’s all about reciprocation. That is where the building block of speech comes from. That is how the brain grows. It’s the child looking for reciprocation from the parents.”
“Every parent,” added Ellis, “wants their child to succeed. No matter what their background, they want what’s best for their child. Don’t mistake their lack of knowledge or their lack of a background with not caring or not wanting the best.”
“If you start judging parents, you’ve lost them,” Garner said. “You cannot go into a home or a community or a classroom and judge the parents for what they don’t know. It’s not fair.”