To the Editor:
As a professor and educator, I read Samuel J. Meisels’ Jan. 25, 2006, Commentary on early-childhood education with interest, and then with shock and dismay (“Universal Pre-K: What About the Babies?”). I kept waiting for him to write, “But it’s ridiculous to put infants and toddlers into ‘school’ and expect the outcome to be anything but poor.” Sadly, he never did.
It is true that there are plenty of substandard parents out there, but taking their children and putting them into an institutional “educational” setting for any number of hours each day is not the answer. Babies and toddlers need to be reared by their own families—not placed into day care. Children fail emotionally and mentally, and even academically, when they do not have the strong bond of family. No amount of taking children away from substandard (but not legally incompetent, abusive, or neglectful) parents is going to solve any problem in our nation’s education system.
The solution is “school” for parents. Parenting classes would go a long way toward educating them in how to rear their children in a loving, warm, and supportive environment. Providing poor parents with books and teaching them how to cuddle their children on their laps and read to them would go much further than having children spend hours away from their families. If that means we need to teach parents how to read, so be it.
Let’s help solve the problem, not make a larger one by ignoring the root cause. Parents can be taught how to parent children. We should not remove children from their parents during their early years just because we think that somehow we are better than parents at rearing children. This is a dangerous and slippery slope to head down.
School of Education
Indiana Wesleyan University
A version of this article appeared in the February 22, 2006 edition of Education Week as To Help Toddlers, First School the Parents