Susan DuFresne’s Model Agenda for the Early Childhood Resistance

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Teachers across America are the casualties of education reform run amok. Their expertise is ignored, they’re evaluated via discredited metrics based on student test scores, and they’re expected to compensate for all manner of society’s ills. No wonder they’re quitting at record rates. But the ascent of Betsy DeVos has engendered a new spirit of activism, and reinvigorated those on the front lines of resistance.

Early childhood educators are relative newcomers to the action. Long marginalized as a workforce, most of those who teach our youngest children have been slow to raise their voices in public. Not Susan DuFresne.

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Revitalizing the Children’s Garden

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There’s a crisis in the American kindergarten. It’s become the new first grade—if not beyond. In April, more than 200 teachers descended on Bank Street College of Education in New York City to reaffirm the unique and vital role of kindergarten in children’s lives.

“Play is the highest expression of the child’s development,” Friedrich Froebel wrote in the Education of Man. We have to forgive the beloved founder of kindergarten for his lapse from gender neutrality, Cecilia Traugh, Bank Street’s dean of the graduate school, reminded the audience as the celebration began. He lived in the 18th and . . . Read full article →

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Susan DuFresne Takes a Look at Her Lego Collection

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Legos have been beloved staples of early childhood for decades. The corporation that makes them recently closed a search for a professor of play at Cambridge, a position covered by a $5 million endowment to the university. Also included in the gift is a research center dedicated to this primary engine of human development.

Susan DuFresne is a kindergarten teacher in Washington State, where a former Microsoft executive is director of the Department of Early Learning. She has given a new face to early childhood activism, raising her impassioned voice for social justice and educational equity . . . Read full article →

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Renee Dinnerstein’s Revolution Grows in Brooklyn

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Last September, before school began, I made my way to the Brooklyn Historical Society for the launch of Renée Dinnerstein’s new book, Choice Time. At a time of standardized tests for five-year-olds, canned curriculum, didactic instruction, and the Common Core—in a city of deep inequality and segregation—this event was long overdue.

More than 200 teachers poured into the landmark Romanesque Revival building, now a center of urban history, civic dialogue, and community outreach. Many were left standing around the edges of the room, the air tense with expectancy. After a day of setting up their classrooms, they . . . Read full article →

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