Networks, Community, and Early Childhood Education

Today’s post borrows more of John Taylor Gatto’s ideas — in particular his summation of the profound difference between networks and community and how recognition of these differences is pretty important in the efforts at bettering our children’s education — or more broadly: in sensibly developing our community’s well-being.

The people who have come to staff schools are often fond of networking. Professional educators readily embrace the positive attributes of networks. Seemingly however, they are often unaware of the sapping of family and community vitality that such mechanization can induce.

Automations and routines can very well squelch human tendency; dehumanize by any other name.

And to the contrary, participation — as fully human — in complex human affairs — is what makes us fully human.

Data-driven networks and school systems, don’t include, don’t require, the whole person.

What’s required of a network is only that part of us that is of interest to the functioning of the network. And while the network will deliver efficiency in its limited aims, the cost is that we must split the wholeness of our humanity into fragments able to perform computational tasks.

Early childhood education, or preschool, more profoundly functions in the realm of tasks and learning dependent upon very human and holistic skills — skill sets that literally flow from our connection to one another and are utterly sense driven and sense dependent.

This is the realm of family — or in the case of another family, a friend or two — then we call it community, don’t we?

And suffice to say that:

Local context, responsibility, organization, cooperation, learning, production, healing, and participation, among others, are what sustain a community.

Right? So then, you got this opposing economic drive and persuasion that is the juice that flows globally through the whims and greed of something called global capital. And indeed we are all buying into this stuff to a greater or lesser extent.

And this stuff just seems to thrive when hooked into computer networks.

There’s just one catch.

This stuff is completely unable to care the least about community, or family, in the context of where we actually live.

Just the facts — that is, foremost, the stuff of data and global economic competition — based on stuff — commodity stuff that requires consumption. And the consumption is engineered, and of a nature, such that it inserts and displaces the non-commodity part of our lives: the human part.

Preschoolers” (which apparently now refers to “students” aged 0-5) are bigger stakeholders in their family and community — their human development — than the technocratic adults designing these schemes to sell “early childhood education”.

Are there alternatives to this?

There are. However, greater participation of the family and the community in programs, now called early childhood education — and yet, which might go by the name: parent/child learning and resource centers, would not necessarily promote the careers of professional educators and their institutional business models. And frankly, such advocates for the current education industry are much more empowered, through the lobbying and sustenance of the status quo, than families scrambling just to get by, let alone promote alternatives, in the rigged game we call the free market.

Then again, who knows? You get enough people together — people who share similar concerns for their keiki and for their community. Who knows? You might just find a way to organize and share ideas — ideas for being responsible for 0-5 year olds as a community.

It would only flow from dialog.

In any case, networks and communities are quite different things.


3 thoughts on “Networks, Community, and Early Childhood Education

  1. Hard to disagree with your logic. Just wondering from a practical standpoint what steps can be taken to mitigate the problems caused by parents/families who don’t give a rat’s ass about their kids. Not suggesting the government should step in, just wondering what tools and processes can be used by the community to make a contribution. Painting the concept of “networking” with an unflattering brush seems to me to throw out the baby with the bathwater. (In this context not sure if you mean “social” networking and/or old-fashioned human-to-human networking.) IMHO “networking” (in both contexts) is a tool/process that can–but not necessarily does–help build community. In the end it’s about people coming together to build relationships to the point that they care about and value each other. It can happen at the local charter school, in a church (won’t find me there, though LOL), at work, or at Darren’s homestead. Doesn’t matter to me what process or tools lead up to the actual community-building, just as long as it happens.

    Would it be better if we had a less screwed up, more equitable society that didn’t produce uncared for kids? Of course! And longer-term thinking, re-prioritization of our social values, less intrusiveness from government and money-grubbing capitalistic greed would be the ideal. But right now we’ve got to play the hand we’ve been dealt. Guess that’s a long-winded way of saying that I believe we have to balance the short-term with the long-term. Not saying I have the answers, but doing nothing and waiting for a revolution that may or may not bring about ideal social conditions doesn’t seem like the right thing to do.

    Admittedly my take is from a practical problem-solving perspective–a mindset rooted in too many years in Japanese factories making things happen in the face of naysayers and abstract arguments aimed at proving our proposed solutions can’t–or shouldn’t–be done. I learned to relish proving them wrong. And I’ve come to believe that theory and abstraction is useful for perspective and context, but only if it drives tangible solutions.

    That said, I just experienced something at a local school that totally supports your thesis on “certification syndrome” driving the emerging education industry. They brought in a “bullying expert” to lecture the teachers and students on how to deal with the phenomenon. Looks to me like the instructor read a couple books, copied bullet points onto her powerpoint slides then proceeded to lecture the audience. On the one hand, much of it was common sense. Yet…in my eyes she had no credibility, and intuitively (can’t say for sure, though) seems like the type of person that kids wouldn’t listen to anyway. And yet…I’m guessing she’s a “certified bullying expert”, and that (likely) the school is required to conduct this training…no doubt mandated by either the DOE or Washington (if they want their funds, that is). After listening for half an hour I wanted to bully her out of the room…but unfortunately she’s a lot bigger than me so that wasn’t an option, LOL. Honestly, a good number of the “uncertified” teachers and administrators who work for the school could have done a much better job than the outside “expert”. And so it goes.

  2. “Tools and processes” used to “problem-solve” gets to my point pretty well. I’m saying that matters of the family — community, are often of a non-commodity nature. As such, the professional service provider selling “solutions” to “families causing problems by their disregard for their children” becomes: families being empowered to use their competence in full participation.

    Particularly, the political rhetoric and federal government-directed funding of early childhood education is troubling in its data-driven approach that directly opposes the qualities that define healthy families and community. I’ve no problem with networks for the usefulness they offer. However, I’m not convinced that a fast privatizing school system is a solution nor adequate substitute for the work of parenting.

    That the work of “family building” (as we might transpose your “community building”, but with 0-5 year olds) should happen at preschools — for the sake of family and community integrity — seems an odd kind of sales pitch that I’m not ready to buy.

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