One of the strategic issues for the Vision 2021 initiative is advocating for early childhood education and networks of support. Research has repeatedly shown that the first three years of a child’s life are crucial to brain development. Dee Dickinson, former CLO of New Horizons for Learning, is a proponent of early childhood education. But she also thinks that this evidence should not prompt us to start piling on the academics as soon as a child’s first steps are taken. Dickinson believes that an active and engaged environment—one that encourages interaction and questioning about anything and everything—fosters more brain development than passive absorption of material from television and direct instruction.

To promote this ideal, Dickinson believes that elementary schools should become community centers for learning. Parents can learn how to provide an enriching environment in the home that focuses on engagement and play—especially as the focus on play has been pushed aside in the atmosphere of high-stakes testing. Because many parents have their own anxieties about school based on their childhood experiences, providing informal opportunities such as pot-luck dinners can help to get parents engaged in discussions about early childhood education and lifelong family learning, as well. This can be especially true in low-income areas.

Dickinson realizes that this concept is not easily executed due to time and budget constraints. But nevertheless, she believes that visionary leaders should work toward involving the whole community—parents, teachers, and students—in a grass-roots effort to promote the joy of lifelong learning and to restore “humanity” to education.

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re: Restoring Humanity Through Lifelong Learning

Restoring "humanity" in education is essential in our opinion too! Learning must be fun again and all stakeholders must feel like experts in the process, which is really more of discovery in a well-designed and organized environment. Parents are saying, “this is the best thing I could have ever asked for and more.” They are excited about knowing how to set up their child's environment and how to facilitate learning in a developmentally appropriate way. We only wish we could get our product in the hands of the underpriveledged but it costs money that we do not currently have as a start up company. Hooray for "humanity" in education

re: Restoring Humanity Through Lifelong Learning

I think when trying to restore the balance between humanity and achieving NCLB, it at times seems hopeless. This leaves us with how to incorporate humanity while achieving NCLB expectations. We do need to teach active learning and critical thinking skills rather than just academics and test taking. Even at an early age, we can begin with questioning and discovery. When trying to help parents with ideas to help with the discovery and questioning, we tend to only recieve a response from the parents who are already using those strategies within their regular parenting. We need to figure out a way to reach the parents who are not actively communicating and exposing their children to discovery and questioning. One way that may be possible is with the parental involvment funds through Title I. By offering gas cards, to all parents who attend can be a great motivator.