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.