The idea that we should invest in early education has gained momentum in recent years, crossing party and class lines to fuel ambitious new programs and a growing movement in cities, states and the federal government.
But this momentum will only carry early education, whether it’s high-quality preschools, home visiting or professional development, so far. Until the general public — parents and non-parents alike — understand the return on those investments in clear terms, such as higher salaries for adults and lower special education costs, the scale of the idea will not reach its potential.
A new documentary is trying to change that. “The Raising of America” translates the piles of research, public policies and arguments for investing in early education into a film that targets the broader public. In this case, filmmakers aspire to reach “dormant allies,” people who may like the idea of a better early learning system but for whatever reason, perhaps an already busy life, have not engaged in the topic.
Yet little or no popular media have translated these scientific findings into a compelling new narrative capable of changing the way parents, practitioners, policy makers and the public think about society’s responsibilities and interest in these first crucial years. The conventional default explanations of child development — ‘good’ vs. ‘bad’ parents, genetics and cultural dysfunction — still predominate. Perhaps not coincidentally, little progress has been made in improving outcomes for America’s children.
To do this, filmmakers are taking a different approach to releasing their film. Right now, they are releasing slices of it as short episodes, — “Are We Crazy About Our Kids?” “Once Upon a Time,” “Wounded Places,” and a “Signature Hour” — that you can view on the website.
Groups are also hosting screenings around the country. In the Seattle area, you can watch the film Nov. 20 at the Renton IKEA Performing Arts Center. The screening begins at 6 p.m. and you can get details here. They plan to release the film as a DVD this spring and air it on PBS.
Read about a screening in Spokane this fall
To broaden the film’s audience, filmmakers partnered with other organizations, 300-plus and counting, to show and discuss their work. These groups range from First 5 LA to the University of Washington’s School of Public Health.
Truckloads of research already show that high-quality early education works. But this is not enough. “The Raising of America” takes that next critical step of explaining this research and why it matters to all of us.
“We must change the consciousness of the society at large – teaching must be seen as a profession and a high-quality profession at that,” said Mark Bogosian, communications and program officer at the New York City-based Foundation for Child Development. “Only then will we be able to change the public’s understanding of the importance of high-quality early education. Brain science doesn’t seem to be doing it … ”