Archives for category: Childhood

Jeanne Dietsch writes regularly about politics and social welfare in New Hampshire. She is a former legislator. The Republican legislature recently voted to cut public school funding, to launch vouchers for private schools and homeschooling, and to cut property taxes.

She wrote:

A decade ago, I read a story in The Atlantic about a boy stranded at sea, in a boat that had been carefully crafted and tended by his grandfather, but neglected by his parents. The motor died and the dinghy was beginning to leak, amid tall waves, while he was still far from shore.


I see New Hampshire’s children in that boat. One in every nine children in NH lives in poverty – less than $22k per year for a family of three – compared with one in fifteen adults. Between 2008 and 2018, the proportion of children on free and reduced lunch rose almost 40%. NH has among the highest rates of college debt, highest tuition, highest growth in teen suicide. Educational achievement has been demonstrated over 50 years to vary with poverty and parental education more than race. Mental health problems can be caused or exacerbated by the stress of poverty and depression.

Are NH leaders ferreting out the causes of child poverty, the causes of mental illness, to root them out? No, because they would have to admit that defunding government and giving the private sector free rein is not working. They would have to stop steering tax cuts to the wealthy and powerful and start investing in children and the future.

Instead, the G.O.P. is defunding 22 positions at DCYF, the people tasked with protecting children, at a time when reports of abuse have increased. Is it because the state is short on funds? No, revenues exceed plan. It is because the pay scale for those positions is so low that DCYF has been unable to fill 41 vacancies. Last time NH let case loads rise to 70 per employee, two children died. The problem is not lack of funds, it is lack of interest from the G.O.P.

The G.O.P is also cutting the education stability grants that the Senate allocated to property-poor districts last term. This burdens those towns local property taxpayers. This increases poverty in those towns. Public schools hand out take-home meal bags to children who cannot rely on being fed over the weekend. Public schools must try to educate children of parents struggling with addiction, children who have no one at home to care for them.

Rather than address poverty and its impact on educational achievement, G.O.P. leaders merely bandage the wounds of a sick society.[1] They inserted “Education Freedom Account” vouchers into the budget. The EFAs give $4600 per year to people already paying their children’s private tuition. For a family living in poverty, whose parents work extended hours to get by, a partial tuition subsidy is useless. And at least one for-profit company is already raising millions in startup money at the prospect of raking in NH taxpayer dollars for providing cut-rate instructional services. The goal of the company is to replace schools and certified teachers with aides who educate children in their homes. This, according to EFA supporters, will cut local taxes because: Professional teachers will be laid off. Schools will close. And taxpayers will no longer need to maintain the stranded assets of the school districts.These new “micro-schools” cater to people of similar economic, cultural, and educational background. Any sociologist can explain that the way to increase upward mobility is to create networks across boundaries. This approach traps children in bubbles of like-minded people, just as social media does.

Similarly, for mental health, the NH G.O.P majority is funding band aids, increasing budgets for treatment resources. For people already suffering from mental illness, treatment is crucial, of course. However, to ignore poverty’s role in depression and mental illness is like foregoing COVID vaccination and only treating patients after they are sick. It is foolish, expensive, and cruel.

New Hampshire has the second lowest birth rate in a country with less-than-replacement rate nationwide. Each child is that much more precious, as a result. Yet the G.O.P. refuses to invest in them. Is it not obvious that this is a recipe for future decline?

Are NH G.O.P. members so determined to prove that government can do no good that they refuse to use it to help children? Are they so self-indulgent that they only care about their own? Or are they just drinking the kool-aid of the cult?

Whatever reason drives each individual official, they act as a block. We must replace them. And we must not send to Washington any who place profit, power or party over our nation’s future well-being. The seas are rough and the G.O.P. seem willing to let the boat sink, as long as their kids have life vests.

The title of this post may sound absurd. Of course, children should play; it need not be a “right,” as defined in law, but it should be common sense. Play is an essential part of childhood. Most of us remember the games we made up, the pots and pans that we turned into playthings, the music we created on our own. But children today have been denied the fundamental time needed for unstructured play at school. The enactment of No Child Left Behind in 2002 prioritized academic skills and caused many schools to eliminate recess as a “frill.”

Today, happily, there is a movement to bring back recess. Whereas schools used to provide recess once, or twice, or three times a day, it is now legislatures that are mandating recess. Crazy, no? When I attended Montrose Elementary School in Houston, we had recess twice a day, without benefit of a state law.

Today there are several states that mandate recess, which seems to be the only way to guarantee that it is provided.

Parent activists in Illinois just won a victory in the Illinois legislature, with the passage of a bill that requires 30 minutes of recess daily and guarantees that children cannot be punished by withholding recess.

In Texas, where the state legislature spends most of its time figuring out how to increase the number of charters and how to pass vouchers, some districts have taken the initiative to make play available.

Others have decided to rethink recess at the school or district level. A program called LiiNK—Let’s Inspire Innovation ’N Kids—in several Texas school districts sends kids outside for four 15-minute recess periods daily.

Debbie Rhea, a professor and associate dean at Texas Christian University, launched the initiative after seeing a similar practice in Finland. It reminded her of her own elementary school years.

“We have forgotten what childhood should be,” said Rhea, who was a physical education teacher before going into academia. “And if we remember back to before testing—which would be back in the ’60s, ’70s, early ’80s—if we remember back to that, children were allowed to be children.”

LiiNK was a big change for the Eagle Mountain Saginaw Independent School District, where schools saw their recess time quadruple after implementing the program four years ago.

“We’ve seen some amazing changes in our students,” said district LiiNK coordinator Candice Williams-Martin. “Their creative writing has improved. Their fine motor skills have improved, their [body mass index] has improved. Attention in the classroom has improved.”

Some educators claim that play increases test scores, but that’s a shaky foundation for supporting one of the most important building blocks of childhood. Everyone needs time to play, even adults.

I originally posted this commentary in December 2020. It has since been opened by readers more than 600,000 times. It struck a chord with teachers and parents. It still does.

In recent months, we have heard a crescendo of recommendations for what to do with the children. “Test them!” “Quantify the learning loss!” “Let no child go untested!” Those clamoring for testing are well-funded, usually by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. They have big megaphones. Here and there, other voices have spoken with quiet authority about what children need when they are back in school. They need social and emotional support. Some have lost parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins to the virus. Some have experienced intense loneliness and sadness.

Theresa Thayer Snyder offers different advice, based on her long experience as an educator. She was superintendent in the Voorheesville, New York, district. As more and more schools begin to reopen, it is time to read it again.

Teresa Thayer Snyder was superintendent of the Voorheesville district in upstate New York. She wrote this wise and insightful essay on her Facebook page. A friend sent it to me.

Dear Friends and Colleagues:

I am writing today about the children of this pandemic. After a lifetime of working among the young, I feel compelled to address the concerns that are being expressed by so many of my peers about the deficits the children will demonstrate when they finally return to school. My goodness, what a disconcerting thing to be concerned about in the face of a pandemic which is affecting millions of people around the country and the world. It speaks to one of my biggest fears for the children when they return. In our determination to “catch them up,” I fear that we will lose who they are and what they have learned during this unprecedented era. What on earth are we trying to catch them up on? The models no longer apply, the benchmarks are no longer valid, the trend analyses have been interrupted. We must not forget that those arbitrary measures were established by people, not ordained by God. We can make those invalid measures as obsolete as a crank up telephone! They simply do not apply. 

When the children return to school, they will have returned with a new history that we will need to help them identify and make sense of. When the children return to school, we will need to listen to them. Let their stories be told. They have endured a year that has no parallel in modern times. There is no assessment that applies to who they are or what they have learned. Remember, their brains did not go into hibernation during this year. Their brains may not have been focused on traditional school material, but they did not stop either. Their brains may have been focused on where their next meal is coming from, or how to care for a younger sibling, or how to deal with missing grandma, or how it feels to have to surrender a beloved pet, or how to deal with death. Our job is to welcome them back and help them write that history.

I sincerely plead with my colleagues, to surrender the artificial constructs that measure achievement and greet the children where they are, not where we think they “should be.” Greet them with art supplies and writing materials, and music and dance and so many other avenues to help them express what has happened to them in their lives during this horrific year. Greet them with stories and books that will help them make sense of an upside-down world. They missed you. They did not miss the test prep. They did not miss the worksheets. They did not miss the reading groups. They did not miss the homework. They missed you.

Resist the pressure from whatever ‘powers that be’ who are in a hurry to “fix” kids and make up for the “lost” time. The time was not lost, it was invested in surviving an historic period of time in their lives—in our lives. The children do not need to be fixed. They are not broken. They need to be heard. They need be given as many tools as we can provide to nurture resilience and help them adjust to a post pandemic world.

Being a teacher is an essential connection between what is and what can be. Please, let what can be demonstrate that our children have so much to share about the world they live in and in helping them make sense of what, for all of us has been unimaginable. This will help them– and us– achieve a lot more than can be measured by any assessment tool ever devised. Peace to all who work with the children!

As an added bonus, here is a video featuring the author of this wonderful article. Her title: “Children. Cherished and Challenged.”

Joe Biden just signed the most sweeping economic relief package since the New Deal. He has addressed poverty and inequality directly and fearlessly. Trump could boast of a massive tax cut for the rich. Biden can boast of putting money in the pockets of most Americans at a time of dire need. The number of children in poverty, by most estimates, will be cut in half.

A significant and permanent decline in the child poverty rate—currently higher in the U.S. than in other industrialized nations—will improve the lives of not only children, but families and communities. Children will have better nutrition, better child care, better access to medical care, and more stable lives, as the economic prospects of their families improve.

The plan establishes the benefit for a single year. But if it becomes permanent, as Democrats intend, it will greatly enlarge the safety net for the poor and the middle class at a time when the volatile modern economy often leaves families moving between those groups. More than 93 percent of children — 69 million — would receive benefits under the plan, at a one-year cost of more than $100 billion.

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The bill, which is likely to pass the House and be signed by Mr. Biden this week, raises the maximum benefit most families will receive by up to 80 percent per child and extends it to millions of families whose earnings are too low to fully qualify under existing law. Currently, a quarter of children get a partial benefit, and the poorest 10 percent get nothing.

Robert Kuttner of The American Prospect calls this “a watershed moment” that could demonstrate to working people that government is on their side. He writes:

With the passage of the American Rescue Plan, people who voted for Donald Trump grasped that the government, under a Democratic president, is sending each of their kids at least $3,000 a year, paying for their health coverage if they lose their jobs, topping up their unemployment compensation, keeping their local governments from cutting services, and a great deal more.

Government, in friendly hands, just might be on the side of the people—in a way that is simple, direct, and not filtered through private profiteers. Imagine that. Reprogram some tax breaks for the very rich that do nothing for anyone else, and government might deliver even more.

All of this public outlay will boost the economy so much that conservatives, who once emphasized the need for fiscal discipline and business tax breaks, are now warning that direct government help to regular people might cause the economy to grow too fast. What a nice problem to have.

Activist government has been demonized for more than a generation. A great many working-class people, who saw government under both parties getting into bed with elites rather than providing practical help, joined in the demonizing. Now, they just may give government and the Democrats a second look.

The New York Times said that the rescue plan’s direct income support for children amounts to “a policy revolution.”

Obscured by other parts of President Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimuluspackage, which won Senate approval on Saturday, the child benefit has the makings of a policy revolution. Though framed in technocratic terms as an expansion of an existing tax credit, it is essentially a guaranteed income for families with children, akin to children’s allowances that are common in other rich countries.

The plan establishes the benefit for a single year. But if it becomes permanent, as Democrats intend, it will greatly enlarge the safety net for the poor and the middle class at a time when the volatile modern economy often leaves families moving between those groups. More than 93 percent of children — 69 million — would receive benefits under the plan, at a one-year cost of more than $100 billion.

The bill…raises the maximum benefit most families will receive by up to 80 percent per child and extends it to millions of families whose earnings are too low to fully qualify under existing law. Currently, a quarter of children get a partial benefit, and the poorest 10 percent get nothing.

Joe Biden has staked his presidency on policies that echo FDR. He is the right leader for the moment. I have and will criticize his education policies. Mandating testing in the middle of a pandemic is thoughtless and cruel. But in confronting a once in a century pandemic and economic peril, his leadership has been peerless. And as Robert Kuttner wrote, Biden may even persuade working people to vote in their own interest and not to be swayed by the endless culture wars (e.g., trans bathrooms, cancel culture, Colin K’s knee) that Republicans use to mask their lack of any economic policy that benefits the vast majority of Americans.


The nation’s two teachers’ unions joined together to issue an unusual joint statement that advises federal, state, and local leaders what must be done not only to revive education after the pandemic but to restart it with a fresh vision that focuses on the needs of children, not assumptions about their “learning loss” or “COVID slide.”

They introduce the document and its visionary proposals with these words:

Nation’s educators release shared agenda to ensure all students succeed Organizations offer proven ways to help students overcome Covid-19 opportunity gaps and meet students’ academic, social, and emotional needs
 WASHINGTON, DC – Today the National Education Association (NEA) and American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the nation’s two largest educators’ unions, released a bold, shared agenda to ensure that all students receive the supports and resources they need to thrive now and in the future.  

Over the course of the last month, AFT and NEA have come together to define the essential elements needed to effectively understand and address the ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted students’ academic, social, and developmental experiences. “We have an unprecedented opportunity to create the public schools all our students deserve,” said NEA President Becky Pringle. “It is our mission to demand stronger public schools and more opportunities for all students- Black and white, Native and newcomer, Hispanic and Asian alike. And we must support the whole learner through social, emotional and academic development. The ideas presented in this roadmap will lay the groundwork to build a better future for all of our students.” 

“COVID-19 has laid bare this country’s deep fissures and inequities and our children, our educators and our communities have endured an unprecedented year of frustration, pain and loss,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “As vaccine access and effectiveness suggest the end is in sight, it is incumbent on us to not only plan our recovery, but to reimagine public schooling so our children, families and educators can thrive.  

“The crises gripping our country are weighing heavily on young people, who are the future of our communities. That’s why our schools must, at a minimum, be supported and well-resourced to address our students their trauma, social-emotional, developmental and academic needs. This framework is an invaluable tool to help us get there,” Weingarten added. 

Shared with Sec. of Education Cardona last week, Learning Beyond Covid-19, A Vision for Thriving in Public Education offers the organizations’ ideas on ways our education systems can meet students where they are academically, socially, and emotionally.  The framework outlines five priorities that can serve as a guide for nurturing students’ learning now and beyond COVID-19 including learning, enrichment and reconnection for this summer and beyond; diagnosing student well-being and academic success; meeting the needs of our most underserved students; professional excellence for learning and growth; and an education system that centers equity and excellence. 

The full document can be found here

Sir Ken Robinson inspired educators around the world with his vision of child-centered schools that focused on imagination, creativity, the arts, and the joy of learning.

Sadly, he died last August at the age of 70.

His daughter Kate Robinson has organized a virtual celebration of his life and work on March 4, called “Imagine If…”

I hope you will watch it.

The New York Times said this about him:

Ken Robinson, a dynamic, influential proponent of stimulating the creativity of students that has too often been squelched by schools in the service of conformity, died on Aug. 21 at his home in London. He was 70.

His daughter, Kate Robinson, said the cause was cancer.

A British-born teacher, author and lecturer, Mr. Robinson viewed large school systems as sclerotic, squeezing the creative juices out of children by overemphasizing standardized testing and subjects like mathematics and science over the arts and humanities.

“There isn’t an education system on the planet that teaches dance every day to children the way we teach them mathematics,” he said during a TED Talk in 2006 that has been downloaded 67 million times, the most in the lecture organization’s history. “I think math is very important, but so is dance. Children dance all the time, if they’re allowed to.”


Denisha Jones explains here what happened at a televised event in Pittsburgh when she asked candidate Joe Biden if he would eliminate standardized testing. Denisha is a highly accomplished woman and a champion for children.

Biden’s Broken Promise: Time to Opt Out! 

On December 14, 2019, I asked President Biden a question about standardized testing. Seeking the Democratic nomination, he had joined other presidential candidates at a Public Education Forum, the creation of a collective of organizations, including the Schott Foundation, Network for Public Education, and Journey for Justice, live-streamed and moderated by MSNBC.

I had all day to frame my question–Biden was last in the lineup. Given the widespread havoc that standardized testing has wreaked, I had to cover a lot of ground. I wanted to demonstrate the negative impact of standardized testing on teacher autonomyand early childhood education. I needed to emphasize the racist history of standardized testing to remind everyone how we got to this point.  

“If you are elected president, will you commit to ending the use of standardized tests in public schools?” I asked.   “Yes,” said Biden. He told me that I was preaching to the choir and assured me that he was well-informed about the over-reliance on standardized tests to evaluate teachers and students.  He agreed that we need to give teachers the power to determine the curriculum and build children’s confidence. 

“When testing is the measure of whether or not the student is successful…teaching to a standardized test makes no sense,” he said. The question went viral, with many educators hopeful that this dark cloud would finally evaporate under a Biden presidency.  At the time, I didn’t believe him, and though I voted for him, I had no faith that he would keep his promise to me and America’s teachers.

I knew that Democrats were too deeply aligned with neoliberal education reform policies to end standardized testing. Some thought otherwise, hoping for a positive influence from  Dr. Jill Biden, a teacher. Democratic presidents may publicly speak out against such assessments while filling their administration with people who support them.   I remembered that President Obama also had delivered a critique of testing and then ramped it up with his Race to the Top program.  Biden could have selected Dr. Leslie Fenwick, with a proven track record against standardized testing, as his Secretary of Education. Instead, he chose a moderate, unknown candidate, Miguel Cardona.  

I was right.

On February 22ndChalkbeat reported, “States must administer federally required standardized testing this year…” the administration announced. While schools will not be held accountable for scores and can administer the test online and shorten it, states will not receive an exemption through federal waivers. 

Of course, when Biden made his promise to me, we had no idea that COVID-19 would upend public education as we know it, plunging teachers, students, and families into the world of remote teaching and learning. Now would be the perfect time for Biden to make good on his promise. Last year’s tests were canceled. As the pandemic rages on and districts struggle to move from remote to hybrid and fully in-person, why should Biden insist on keeping the standardized tests he claimed made no sense in a pre-COVID world?

Everyone is asking me what we should do now. Fortunately, parents and students have an excellent tool at their disposal.They can opt out. 

I cannot imagine a more opportune time for parents to refuse to have their children participate in a standardized test.  The last thing our children need is the added pressure of a test that won’t count, but they are still required to take.  Our focus should be on helping children build the resilience they need, not just tosurvive the trauma from this pandemic but to thrive in this new education landscape.  Jesse Hagopian passionately reminds us,  

“While corporate education reformers prattle on about a need for more high-stakes testing to evaluate ‘learning loss,’ what students truly require is the redirection of the billions of dollars wasted on the testing-industrial complex toward supporting educators and students: to gain access to COVID-19 testing, contact tracing, and vaccinations, as well as psychologists, nurses, social workers, trauma counselors, after-school programs, restorative justice coordinators, and more.”

Opting out of standardized testing is a parent’s choice and right, despite administrators’ push back. Pre-COVID 19, some schools tried to force children to sit and stare for hours while their classmates took the exam. Now that testing has gone virtual, some parents had to give up their right to opt out when they signed up for online schooling. They can make you logon to the testing platform, but no one can force your child to answer the questions.  

I am not alone in my calls for widespread opt out. On Thursday, February 25th, the recently resigned Chancellor of New York City Schools, Richard Carranza, called for parents to refuse the tests. NYC Opt Out and Integrate NYC hosted a town hall to strategize opting out of spring testing.  You can sign the Integrate NYC petition here

Opting out will not hurt schools, but it will hurt the testing corporations, desperate to prove that these assessments can survive in virtual schooling and protect their bottom line. Two years in a row without standardized testing would clear the way to finally dismantle this racist practice–the likely rationale forhis broken promise. The time has come to banish this obsolete relic of a painful past.  

For more information on the opt out movement, visit http://www.unitedoptoutnational.org/

You can also read my blog, Five Myths About the Standardized Testing and the Opt Out Movement

Full Text of My Question

Good afternoon. My name is Denisha Jones, and I am the Director of the Art of Teaching Program at Sarah Lawrence College in New York. Today I’m here representing the Network for Public Education Action, Defending the Early Years, the Badass Teachers Association, and The Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action National Steering Committee. 

Teaching has changed drastically over the last 20 years. Instead of being allowed to use their expertise to develop creative,engaging, culturally relevant lessons, teachers are often forced to use a scripted curriculum and move students along even when they need more time. Many teachers feel more like a test prep tutor than a teacher of children and are concerned that both teachers and students are evaluated too heavily based on test scores. Beginning in kindergarten, young children are losing time for play and discovery and instead forced into developmentally inappropriate academic instruction in an effort to get them prepared for tests. Although formal testing does not begin until 3rd grade, younger students are bombarded with practice tests that narrow the curriculum and often leave many of them hating school.

Given that standardized testing is rooted in a history of eugenics and racism, if you are elected president, will you commit to ending the use of standardized tests in public schools? 

VIDEO: Watch Biden’s response here

BIO

Denisha Jones is the Director of the Art of Teaching Program at Sarah Lawrence College. She is a former kindergarten teacher and preschool director who spent the past 17 years in teacher education.  Denisha is an education justice advocate and activist. She serves as the Co-Director for Defending the Early Years, the Assistant Executive Director for the Badass Teachers Association, an administrator for United Opt Out National, and the Network for Public Education board. Since 2017, she has served on the national Black Lives Matter at School steering committee. In 2020 she joined the organizing committee for Unite to Save Our Schools. Her first co-edited book, Black Lives Matter at School: An Uprising for Educational Justice, was published in December 2020 by Haymarket Books. She is an attorney.

Nicholas Tampio, a professor of political science at Fordham University, wrote recently in the Washington Post that children need a break, not academic pressure, this summer. But the federal government seems to have swallowed whole the claims that children are suffering from “learning loss.” He disagrees. Pasi Sahlberg and William Doyle have repeatedly urged policymakers to acknowledge the importance of play in child development; they wrote a wonderful, research-based book about it called Let the Children Play: How More Play Will Save Our Schools and Help Children Thrive. What Tampio and others argue is that the children have had a horrible year and need time to be children. We don’t need to press their little noses to the academic grindstone.


The global pandemic has taken its toll on families and children. Children have not been able to engage in their normal routines, sit in a classroom with friends and teachers, visit extended family or participate in social activities without a mask. Most parents are more concerned about their children’s emotional well-being than they were before the pandemic, a Pew Research Center survey in the fall found. And that situation may have grown more dire, as children have spent much of the school year online and maintaining social distance from other people.

Facing this year of loss, Democrats in Congress have framed the problem as primarily one of lower projected test scores; their solution is to make kids in high-poverty schools spend the summer inside preparing for standardized tests. This is exactly the wrong approach to the sadness and loss of the covid era: This summer, children need to do self-initiated activities that are rewarding for their own sake. This will create happier children now and, as research has shown, lead to improved physical, cognitive, social, emotional and creative outcomes later in life.

At the end of 2020, Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.), chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor, explained how he wanted to address the learning loss caused by the pandemic: “You can’t just tell cash-strapped states and localities that they’ve got to cancel summer vacation. For the federal government, if we’re going to suggest that, we’ve got to help pay for it.”

So early this year, Scott introduced the Learning Recovery Act of 2021 to establish a grant program; the bill could become law by mid-March. It would authorize $75 billion over the next two years to address learning loss in Title I schools with high concentrations of economically disadvantaged students by funding school extension programs — including longer school days, an extended school year and summer school. It’s a lot of money: Congress allocated about $16 billion for Title I schools in 2019.

The money has strings attached. The bill stipulates that state educational agencies shall support school districts “to effectively use data and evidence-based strategies to address learning recovery needs for students.” To collect this data, a school district may administer “high-quality assessments that are valid and reliable to accurately assess students’ academic progress.” The bill also authorizes funding for the Institute of Education Sciences to study what interventions and strategies best address learning recovery, that is, raise test scores. The supporters of the bill are not interested in paying for kids to play this summer.

That’s a shame — because pediatricians have been making a powerful case for the immediate and long-term benefits of play.

2018 article in the journal Pediatrics called “The Power of Play” defines play as “an activity that is intrinsically motivated, entails active engagement, and results in joyful discovery.”

Childhood play develops foundational motor skills, leads to an active lifestyle and prevents obesity. Climbing rocks gives children a chance to build confidence that will serve them well later in life. Rough-and-tumble play teaches children verbal skills, as they have to negotiate when things threaten to get out of hand. Taking risks on the playground hones executive functioning skills such as concentrating, problem solving and regulating one’s emotions. Recess gives children of different backgrounds an opportunity to become friends.

“Play is part of our evolutionary heritage,” the authors explain, “and gives us opportunities to practice and hone the skills needed to live in a complex world.”

And what happens when children do not have a chance to play? They don’t have a safe way to release toxic stress and may lash out with antisocial behavior. By focusing on academic achievement rather than play, young people often develop anxiety, depression and a lack of creativity. “Play may be an effective antidote to the changes in amygdala size, impulsivity, aggression, and uncontrolled emotion that result from significant childhood adversity and toxic stress,” the article argues.

Even more than usual, it would seem, children in the pandemic era need a chance to play before they resume their formal education in the fall. In England, experts in childhood development have called for a “summer filled with play” to recover from the pandemic. According to Helen Dodd, a professor of child psychology at the University of Reading, “children need time to reconnect and play with their friends, they need to be reminded how good it feels to be outdoors after so long inside and they need to get physically active again…”

Think of all the rewarding things that children could do this summer. Day camps with arts and crafts, sports, theater, and activities like podcasting and three-dimensional printing. Visiting family in other parts of the country. Swimming at the pool. Riding bikes with friends. Performing in a band. As scholars such as Yong Zhao and Christopher Tienken have been arguing for years, these kinds of unstructured activities give young people a chance to invent new things, create works of art, start businesses and develop their own talents.

Kids would be better off if Congress votes down legislation that would keep children in high-poverty schools inside this summer. Those kids — including ones living in shelters, with food insecurity or in dangerous neighborhoods — deserve to play just as surely as do those children whose parents send them to sleep-away camp. And governments, civil society and families should look for ways to give children a chance to do activities that are voluntary, joyful and imaginative: that is, to play.

Jan Resseger reminds us of the traditional Masai greeting, “How are the children?” The assumption is that if the children are well, the village or society is well. Many of our children are not well. Too many live in poverty and lack adequate nutrition, decent medical care, and a safe place to live.

Sadly, as Jan explains, the Republican moderates who asked Biden to cut his COVID relief package focused their cuts on aid to children.

She begins:

This week a group of so-called moderate U.S. Senate Republicans proposed to negotiate with President Joe Biden about his proposed $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan stimulus bill.  But even the ten senators, who profess themselves to be moderates and who came forward with a $618 billion alternative proposal, proved themselves willing to neglect the needs of America’s children. The United States, the world’s richest nation, posts an alarming child poverty rate, but, apart from the voices of a handful of social justice advocates, any level of concern about child poverty is inaudible. Hardly anybody seems to have noticed that one of the great strengths of Biden’s American Rescue Plan is the President’s inclusion of funding for programs that would significantly ameliorate suffering among America’s poorest children.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ Chuck Marr did recently recognize the significanceof the pro-child provisions in Biden’s new American Rescue Plan: “President Biden’s $1.9 trillion emergency relief plan includes a Child Tax Credit expansion that would lift 9.9 million children above or closer to the poverty line, including 2.3 million Black children, 4.1 million Latino children, and 441,000 Asian American children. It also would lift 1.1 million children out of ‘deep poverty,’ raising their family incomes above 50 percent of the poverty line. To do that, the Biden plan would make the credit fully available to 27 million children—including roughly half of all Black and Latino children—whose families now don’t get the full credit because their parents don’t earn enough….”

Do Republicans not care about our children? Why is military spending more desirable than spending to save the lives of the neediest and most helpless?

Everyone should read The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger, which demonstrates that societies are happier when there is more equality.

William Doyle and Pasi Sahlberg have a proposal for what children should do after the pandemic: Play.

They write at CNN.com:

When the novel coronavirus is no longer as great a threat and schools finally reopen, we should give children the one thing they will need most after enduring months of isolation, stress, physical restraint and woefully inadequate, screen-based remote learning. We should give them playtime — and lots of it.William Doyle William Doyle Pasi SahlbergPasi SahlbergAs in-person classes begin, education administrators will presumably follow the safety guidelines of health authorities for smaller classes, staggered schedules, closing or regularly cleaning communal spaces with shared equipment, regular health checks and other precautions. But despite the limitations this may place on the students’ physical environment, schools should look for safe ways to supercharge children’s learning and well-being.We propose that schools adopt a 90-day “golden age of play,” our term for a transitional period when traditional academic education.

Play gives children a wide range of critical cognitive, physical, emotional and social benefits. The American Academy of Pediatrics, representing the nation’s 67,000 children’s doctors, stated in a 2012 clinical report that “play, in all its forms, needs to be considered as the ideal educational and developmental milieu for children,” including for children in poverty, and noted that “the lifelong success of children is based on their ability to be creative and to apply the lessons learned from playing.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also reported “substantial evidence that physical activity can help improve academic achievement,” and “can have an impact on cognitive skills and attitudes and academic behavior,” including concentration and attention. Regular physical activity like recess and physical education, the CDC researchers noted, also “improves self-esteem, and reduces stress and anxiety.”

This is especially relevant for a student population that may face a tidal wave of mental health challenges in the wake of the pandemic. Data from the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report detailed that, as of 2016, 1 in 6 children ages 2 to 8 years of age had a diagnosed mental, behavioral or developmental disorder. And a study in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology revealed that from 2009 to 2017, depression surged 69% among 16- to 17-year-olds.

A 90-day “golden age of play” school re-entry period would help ease children back into the school setting, while providing physical and creative outlets to allow them to calm their stress and thrive with their peers and teachers. But what exactly would this program look like?It should look like a child’s dreams. A time of joy, movement, discovery and experimentation without fear of failure; a time when every student should enjoy comfort, safety, and socialization with peers and warm, caring adults.

Open the link and read the rest.