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Re: [xmca] Fwd: FW: Alliance for Childhood Update

I'm getting a new appreciation of the term "cultural wars". Chuck Norris' moral certitude is hard to counteract with a position of moral "fallibility" as an ideal.

a comment on narratives to challenge the dominant narrative.
the language and narrative that seems to be acceptable when introducing relational and social learning to my school community is Anna Sfard's dichotomy of AQUISITIONAL and PARTICIPATORY models of learning.  The moral implications implicit in this way of contrasting the two discourses seems to resonate and be accepted.  It also is a language in which the centrality of play as participatory learning is in the foreground.  


----- Original Message -----
From: mike cole <lchcmike@gmail.com>
Date: Saturday, December 19, 2009 9:35 am
Subject: [xmca] Fwd: FW: Alliance for Childhood Update
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture,Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>

> For those focused on early childhood ed and especially those who 
> think that
> play is important in that process, the following should be of great
> interest.
> I believe the "anti-play"/"pro-play" debate to fit right in 
> there with the
> math wars, reading wars, etc. to which the very interesting 
> recent posts
> have addressed themselves.
> mike
> *From: *Alliance for Childhood <info@allianceforchildhood.org>
> *Date: *Fri, 18 Dec 2009 06:04:45 -0500
> *To: *Alliance for Childhood <info@allianceforchildhood.org>
> *Subject: *Alliance for Childhood Update
> Alliance for Childhood
> *P.O. Box 444, College Park, MD 20741
> Tel/Fax 301-779-1033
> www.allianceforchildhood.org <http://www.allianceforchildhood.org/>
> *
> *Update—December 2009
> *
> Dear Friends,
> You may have received a version of this letter by regular mail. 
> (If you
> didn’t and would like to get these updates on paper, e-mail us 
> your address.
> Note: we never sell our mailing lists.) Please share this e-mail 
> with others
> who will be interested in our work and might want to support it.
> I am writing to you today with a feeling of urgency and even alarm.
> On November 21 the *Washington Post *reported that the nation’s 
> increasedfocus on publicly funded preschool is sparking a 
> “debate” about the value of
> play for three- and four-year-olds. Here at the Alliance, we 
> know that this
> is not a matter of debate. Play in early childhood education is
> essential—and it is seriously endangered.
> But here’s what the *Post*’s Emma Brown wrote (for the entire 
> article see
> www.washingtonpost.com/wp-
> dyn/content/article/2009/11/20/AR2009112002391.html<http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/20/AR2009112002391.html>
> ):
> Play advocates … worry that politicians eager for tangible 
> returns on
> taxpayers’ investment in early education, and school officials 
> eager for
> better test scores, will push for more direct instruction, an 
> efficient way
> to get short-term gains in literacy and math….
> The choice between measurably improving math and language skills 
> and making
> time for play is particularly an issue in jurisdictions that 
> offer half-day
> preschool, said Barbara Bowman, who has advised [Education 
> Secretary] Duncan
> on early education issues….
> “Ending the achievement gap is one of the high priorities, and 
> that means
> giving low-income kids the same skills and knowledge that middle-
> class kids
> have,” Bowman said. “In a short school day, sometimes direct 
> instruction is
> a better device.”
> We respectfully disagree. Indeed, we can scarcely believe that 
> the value of
> preschool play versus “direct instruction” of literacy and math 
> facts is
> still being debated by top government officials. Decades of 
> research show
> that children in play-rich preschools and kindergartens excel 
> over those in
> didactic programs in academic achievement, creativity, and 
> developing a
> sense of personal and social responsibility.
> But the myth that direct instruction is the best way to close the
> “achievement gap” dies hard in American politics and culture, 
> despite the
> absence of long-term research supporting such claims. We are now 
> on the
> brink of seeing the epidemic of didactic instruction in 
> kindergarten spread
> to thousands of public preschool programs—simply because 
> uninformed parents
> and policymakers think this will help children catch up or speed 
> ahead into
> a global economy—an economy that needs creative thinkers far 
> more than it
> needs rote learners. Too many have bought into the “drill and 
> kill” model of
> early education, abetted by a multi-billion-dollar testing industry.
> There’s a second reason I am deeply concerned.
> The economic disaster of the last year has also affected the Alliance.
> Several foundations that have helped fund our work needed to 
> reduce their
> support. As a result, the Alliance’s income dropped by 20 
> percent last year,
> and we were forced to cut back our operations accordingly.
> This financial challenge comes at a critical moment for us. The 
> Alliance’swork has never been more prominent—or more urgently 
> needed. The publicity
> surrounding our report *Crisis in the Kindergarten* (a Google 
> search on that
> phrase currently produces 149,000 web pages) has led to our 
> being able to
> meet with high-level officials in the White House, Congress, and the
> Departments of Education and Health and Human Services this 
> fall. We are
> making the case for more developmentally appropriate policies 
> and practices
> in preschool and kindergarten programs and have received 
> thoughtful and
> encouraging responses.
> But we know that is only part of the picture. This month we are 
> meeting with
> officials of the organizations that are developing “core 
> competencies” for
> kindergarten through grade 12. These are envisioned as national 
> standards,and states will need to align their standards to them 
> to be eligible for new
> infusions of federal funds. This effort could have far-reaching 
> disastrousconsequences, depending on what those competencies or 
> standards call for.
> When the draft version of the new national K–12 competencies is 
> released,there will be an opportunity for public comment. We 
> will alert you and all
> our other friends on what the draft says, how we think it can be 
> improved,and how you can make your voice heard.
> The Alliance for Childhood is now widely regarded as one of the 
> nation’sleaders in advocating for child-centered and 
> developmentally appropriate
> early education. We must not back down at this critical time.
> With the Elementary and Secondary Education (No Child Left 
> Behind) Act
> coming up for reauthorization in 2010, we plan to work 
> intensively for
> developmentally appropriate guidelines and practices. We have 
> prepared two
> new policy briefs with recommendations for action that can be 
> found on our
> home page (www.allianceforchildhood.org <
> http://www.allianceforchildhood.org/> ). More are being developed.
> Despite the obvious obstacles, we remain hopeful that the 
> situation in
> kindergartens and preschools can be changed in ways that will support
> healthy child development. After all, when we began advocating 
> for play five
> years ago, the situation also looked impossible. But we have 
> seen wonderful
> changes in recent years. Here are a few recent examples:
> The Alliance has been invited to partner with Alaska Geographic, 
> NationalGeographic, the National Wildlife Federation, and the 
> U.S. Forest Service to
> provide opportunities for play in newly designated “children’s 
> forests.” The
> first such project is in Alaska, but we hope this will become a 
> nationalprogram.
> Teachers who want to create play-based classrooms need help 
> through courses,
> study groups, mentoring, and more. We have begun working with early
> childhood professionals to develop pilot programs to meet 
> teachers’ needs.
> We are working with other play advocates across the country to 
> develop the
> U.S. Play Coalition, focused on research, advocacy, and public
> communications about play.
> Recent polls indicate that parents want a return of play to 
> childhood but
> seek some adult supervision for children’s play. To meet this 
> need we are
> intensifying our efforts to develop the profession of playwork 
> in this
> country and are seeing growing interest in it.
> The same polls show strong parental concern about the erosion of 
> childhood.We recognized this problem when we founded the 
> Alliance ten years ago. The
> need to reclaim childhood is even greater today. During our 
> second decade we
> are renewing our commitment to a healthy childhood for all children.
> As a first step we have republished the poem “Childhood,” 
> composed at the
> founding meeting of the Alliance, as an attractive poster. The 
> poem ends
> this way:
> Children need moments for reflection and space for curiosity,
> protective boundaries and freedom to create,
> and time to play, to work, to rest.
> Children need to be introduced to a life of principles,
> and given the freedom to discover their own.
> The spirit of childhood calls for protection and nurture.
> It is an essential part of every human being
> *and needs to be kept alive*.
> To accomplish all of this work we need your support. In this 
> time of
> financial hardship and retrenchment, we are fortunate to have generous
> friends who continue to support us, including a donor who has 
> pledged a
> $10,000 matching gift for our end-of-year fundraising campaign.
> Please give as generously as you can. All donors will receive a 
> copy of our
> new poster and those who give $100 or more will also receive a 
> copy of
> *Reclaiming
> Childhood: Letting Children Be Children in Our Achievement-Oriented
> Society*by developmental psychologist and Alliance board member
> William Crain.
> * *We know you will enjoy it.
> *
> *With thanks and warmest regards,
> Joan Almon
> Executive Director
> P.S.:  Don’t forget that it’s easy to contribute to the 
> Alliance with your
> credit card at our secure web site: www.allianceforchildhood.org <
> http://www.allianceforchildhood.org/> . All donations are tax-
> exempt to the
> extent allowable under I.R.S. rules.
> ------ End of Forwarded Message
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