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  • Anna Brix Thomsen

The Devastating Effects of The Human-Capital Concept in Preschool Education: DAY 56

In my work as a teacher in preschools and elementary schoolsI often see children without adult supervision or contact. It is especially disheartening in preschools for very small children, because it is quite a rough start in life being ‘thrown’ into an institution filled with other children and noises and where the adults have little to no time to care for you, let alone see or hear you.

Often I see children in fights or with hands red and freezing from being outside or with snot hanging down their noses. And most of the preschool teachers do their very best to tend to the children, but unfortunately because of low staffing due to budget cuts, their work mostly consist of running around doing ‘damage control’ and putting out whatever ‘fires’ they can on their way. Seeing a new child starting in preschool isn’t easy to watch, but it also depends on the child. Some children have a natural inclination for the busy life at a preschool environment, while others seem completely traumatized the first weeks, months or even years and then eventually find some way to cope, often within a state of apathy and resignation.

I’ve seen parents who had been on maternity leave with their children having to leave them in the care of strangers and how every inch of them is filled with hope that the child will be one of those that cope well in the new environment. And when the child cries out as the parent walks out the door, I can see the defeat and guilt they experience by leaving their child behind, as they know that the child will never get the same care and attentionthat they themselves can give them – or at least, should-have-could-have been able to.

Some years ago I read the Celestine Prophecy books and in one of the books it is mentioned how the optimal way to raise a child is where each child has at least one adult to be with them for the child to grow up and develop optimally – and as such implying that today’s schools aren’t in any shape, measure or form providing children with the care and attention that they actually need. I remember that this made a big impression on me when I read it because I had never considered such a point before and yet it made sense to me, although I had a hard time seeing how this could be practically applied within the lives of each child currently existing on earth. On the contrary, we’re seeing an increasing tendency for governments to build gigantic schools, the biggest housing more than 10.000 students, a development resembling how factories expand to maximize profit through making ‘cost-efficient’ changes.

Preschools were initially established to provide an economic way for women to join the work force and therefore it makes sense that this economic incentive continues to permeate the educational environment, in spite of all the ‘good intentions’ of teachers and others passionate about education that work tirelessly to improve the conditions in schools. Preschools are holding facilities – not educational environments where a child is meant to flourish into its full potential.

Now – I know that most people might say that they do not see children this way, but that they have no choice but to follow the daily churnings of the system to survive, which means leaving their children in the hands of others so that they can work to make money – and obviously this is so.

But this doesn’t mean that it is the only way to exist or that we have to exist in this way. Of course one cannot now quit one’s job out of the blue and focus all one’s time and attention on caring for one’s child. This is why it is so important that we – together as parents and teachers and people who see the in value of our children, the value of a life that must be cared for and nurtured to its full potential – create a new system, a new way of living together on earth.

It might not be so that we do in fact require one adult per child to provide that child with sufficient care, but the way that children are currently being stuffed into educational facilities is unacceptable. I would not want to place my child in a preschool (public nor private), even with competent teachers present, because I have seen first hand the conditions that these teachers work under and how they can in no way provide children with acceptable, let alone optimal care and attention. And I certainly wouldn’t want to be a child in today’s society, being rushed out of bed, rushed through getting dressed, eating breakfast, beating traffic only to be placed into a room full of other children without any certainty that my needs would be tended to – which is the exact same way we accept ourselves to live as adults. 

If I were to create a preschool, I would make one that resembled a home with nice couches and madrassas and comfortable soft lighting, with plants and places to crawl and jump around. Many preschools today are sterile and bare – like a waiting room where the child waits to become an adult that can contribute by bringing ‘human capital’ to the global economic markets. If I were to create a preschool I would make it a nurturing environment with teachers who are passionate about teaching, teachers who are supported to continuously learn and expand themselves as a teachers, teachers who not only understand how a child develops psychologically but who also understands how the child’s body works and who encourages the child to discover itself in all ways possible at its own pace. I would provide children with the kind of space and setting that suited them best. Some children prefer quiet, others like a more active environment – just like adults. But instead we give them a one-dimensional fish tank based on a sloppy justification that ‘one size fits all’ – because the design of preschools aren’t really done with the children’s best interest in mind. I would create a kind of preschool that you and I would have wanted to attend as children, with a small group of children and adults learning and developing together. Unfortunately this is not possible. Because the kind of preschool I would like to create isn’t cost-efficient in today’s competitive society as it would prioritize the children’s well-being over profit and would therefore be an expense on society that we apparently have collective decided that we cannot afford.

If we cannot even prioritize the well-being of our children when they’re born and in their most important years of development, how can we expect anyone to prioritize our well-being when we for example have to get health care and go to the hospital or that our food is produced in a way that best support our physical bodies?

I urge you to investigate the Living Income proposal – because with the implementation of this system as a political and economic solution, we can actually give our children the future not only they deserve, but that we deserve as well, so that when they grow up and we are old and fragile, they will care for us in the same way that we have cared for them.

It is time that we stop seeing children as products we produce in self-interest to secure our own future, because ironically in doing so, we are securing nothing but our own destruction.

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