Andy Borowitz & Wall Street Get Down to Business on Paid Leave

Parents—the nation’s real wealth producers—got some goodies from the President last week in his State of the Union address.   Using the trope du jour—the “Mad Men” episode—Obama proposed support for America’s beleaguered working families, stuck in the mid-20th century:  equal pay, prekindergarten, child care, and that ever-elusive paid leave.    Nice—although don’t count on a Finnish baby box in the near future.

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Obama asked Congress, and business from Wall Street to Main Street, to give every woman the opportunity she deserves.  It would have been nice if he had framed the issue a little differently; we need the men to get with the agenda. The family values set on the Hill—mostly males from the Pleistocene epoch, with wives and daughters at home, or not—aren’t buying in anytime soon.

Still, I’m happy to report that there’s discernable progress among the titans of capitalism.  Forbes recently ran a story by Susan Adams on a study that found that the happier dad is one who spends more time with his kids.  How lucky they are, too, avoiding the torturous guilt that eternally plagues mothers (with the exception, maybe, of Ayalet Waldman, a.k.a “The Bad Mother.”)   But I digress.  Bloomberg Business also weighed in with a cover piece on this urgent question.  A photograph of the harried postpartum mother in her hospital bed screamed “Labor Crisis.”

“When it comes to maternity leave, the United States just isn’t delivering,” said Julie Hyman, host of Bloomberg’s “Market Makers,” smirking at the corny play on words. After an ad from Goldman Sachs, she was interviewing author Claire Suddath, who had done her homework, reminding her colleague that we stand alone with Papua New Guinea in our failure.  What happened to Swaziland, I wondered. Had they suddenly passed legislation?    Suddath also noted that the business community had suffered no dire consequences when California had pioneered the policy.  But Julie, herself a mother of three, wasn’t having any.  Wouldn’t paid leave put a small business owner under, she asked?  Where’s the middle ground? Canada, Claire responded, pushing the envelope in the belly of the beast of capitalism.

So short-sighted, isn’t it? And so dismissive of those who create capital of the human kind.

Thank God for Andy Borowitz.  Last week, just as I was putting the finishing touches on my book, Squandering America’s Future, Ruby Takanishi, former president of the Foundation for Child Development, sent me his report at The New Yorker on the President’s SOTU.  Happy New Year! she wrote.  A grande dame of early childhood, and the former president of the Foundation for Child Development, Ruby’s a digital immigrant.  She doesn’t do Twitter—but she’s got the form down; haiku, after all, is one of Japan’s most elegant, traditional exports.

“Six Weeks Paid Leave Opposed by People with Thirty-three Weeks’ Paid Leave,” the headline read, the piece accompanied by a picture of mostly white male members of Congress.   “Members of the group heard the President’s proposal on Tuesday night,” Borowitz wrote, “one of the few nights of the year when they are required to report to their workplace.”

Nothing like a little comic relief.  If you haven’t already, read it.


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Early Years Heavyweights Protest Baseline Tests in U.K and U.S.A.

blog_boyandbooksI know I’m a few weeks late, but happy new year.  When we last met, before I went underground to finish my book, I was exulting over an op-ed in the New York Times celebrating play in pre-K classrooms.   Such a nice jolt of serotonin to ward off depression before the elections in November.

As it turned out, I needn’t have worried.  A Christmas gift was soon on the way, courtesy of the Maryland State Education Association.  “Too Many Tests!” read the cover of the organization’s December issue.   The group had called for immediate suspension of the state’s kindergarten readiness  assessment in the wake of a survey of kindergarten teachers.  Sixty-three percent of them reported that they had received no meaningful data to inform instruction from administration of the exam. Well, how about that? The article featuring this blessed poll quoted Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the National Education Association, one of America’s two major labor unions for public school teachers.  “The testing fixation has reached the point of insanity,” she said.

Today, right after the season’s first blizzard went bust (the kids did manage a snow day, at least), I got wind of an article in Children & Young People Now. I hadn’t known about this publication until now, I have to confess. But it’s so comforting to know that I’m not wasting too much time on that Twitter timeline.  Look what gems emerge.  The headline was a beacon of light amid the detritus of the day:  “Early years heavyweights back campaign against baseline tests.”  As Laura McCardle reported, since the beginning of January, 2,086 people—including several influential figures in the early childhood world, parents and providers—had signed a petition to protest a new baseline assessment targeted to children as young as four.

Here’s  a little context:

From September this year, schools will be able to use new baseline assessments to test the knowledge and understanding of children as young as four in school reception classes at the beginning of the academic year.

The tests will replace the use of the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile, which monitors children’s progress at the age of five, in schools from 2016 as part of government efforts to improve the way primary schools are held to account for pupils’ learning and development.

And here, a few of the heavyweights weigh in:

The campaign, launched by Early Education, the British Association for Early Childhood in Education, warns that the arrangements could harm children’s development and those whose who perform less well could be “stigmatized and labelled as failing” within weeks of starting school.

Among those to sign the petition are Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, Professor Cathy Nutbrown, head of the school of education at the University of Sheffield, and Penny Tassoni, president of the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years.

Tassoni described the assessment as “another nail in the coffin” for early childhood. Spot on, Penny.

Sounds like education secretaries Nicky Morgan and Arne Duncan could use a rendezvous.  They need to bone up on  anti-revolutionary tactics.


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Shael Polakow-Suransky & Nancy Nager: Playful Classrooms are Our Smartest Investment

“It has long been noticed that the smartest mammals—primates, cetaceans, elephants, and carnivores—are the most playful,” anthropologist and neuroscientist Melvin Konner wrote in his epic work, The Evolution of Childhood.  But as all early educators know: these are tough times on the playing fields.

The work of children is disappearing, the casualty of trickle-down education reform [... click post title to read more ...]


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