What if Everybody Understood Child Development? Part 1

Rae Pica

Instead of trying to improve on the author’s words, I will share her words with you. Rae Pica broke this up into 29 short articles to make it more convenient to read. This is the first of three installments. Her message is clear.

Part 1

The need for a basic understanding of children and developmentally appropriate practice has never been greater, as

  • The educational climate in this country continues to remove decisions from the hands of educators and place decisions in the hands of those with little or no knowledge of either children or education.
  • Many young teachers entering the field have grown up, as have today’s young students, with little opportunity to experience the benefits of play, risk-taking, active learning, and life without fear, technology, or academic accountability.
  • Society and the media continue to perpetuate myths (“earlier is better,” children must be protected from risk and mistakes,” “we must ‘give’ children self-esteem”) that harm childhood and result in far too many bad educational policies.images (5)

Anyone who understands child development knows that children learn and retain more when their senses are fully engaged.


Anyone who understands child development – as the teachers and administrators at every school should – would know that withholding recess is not only futile (it doesn’t work as a deterrent); also, it can be said to constitute cruelty. Discipline shouldn’t be about punishment; it should be about children learning to make better choices.

Anyone who understands child development – and brain-based learning – knows that pursuing one’s interests results in truer, deeper learning. That hands-on, inquiry-based approaches stimulate the mind and the soul and will serve our children, now and in the future, far better than the expectation that there is only one right answer to every question.handson

Education has always expected all children in the same grade to master the same work at the same level and pace. But since the inception of No Child Left Behind – and now with Race to the Top and the implementation of the Common Core Standards (common being the operative word) – it’s only gotten worse. There is nothing wrong with standards, or goals, per se. It makes sense to establish a certain level of mastery for children to achieve and to determine what students should be able to do and know over the course of a particular period of time, a school year, for example. But the standards should be realistic. It should be possible for the majority of students to achieve them, each at her or his own pace. That means the standards must be developmentally appropriate and based on the principles of child development – designed with actual children in mind. But they’re not. Standards are written by people with little or no knowledge of child development or developmentally appropriate practice. They’re written with too little input from people who do have that knowledge, such as teachers and child development experts. In fact, of the 135 people on the committees who wrote and reviewed the K – 3 Common Core Standards, not one was a K – 3 teacher or an early childhood educator. politicianscommon core

To be continued…