Jack Shonkoff and Early Years

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AngusM
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Jack Shonkoff and Early Years

Post by AngusM » Tue Jun 03, 2008 11:17 pm

I don't know if everyone has dipped in to the Children of the Code Web site but it can be very worthwhile. I just showed part of Jack Shonkoff's interview to parents and faculty at my daughter's school - you could hear a pin drop! Shonkoff is a Harvard Professor who edited "From Neurons to Neighborhoods" a report for the Committee on Integrating the Science of Early Childhood Development for the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council.

Here is a quote from Shonkoff about early development and learning which seems to refute the Early Years people in Britain:

".... understanding that development is influenced by an interaction between nature and nurture; that everyone is born with a unique genetic predisposition, but a large part of development is very much influenced by personal experience and by the environment in which children live. So, one point that was made very strongly in the report was that this long-standing scientific debate of nature versus nurture is, from a science perspective, a dead issue. There's no such thing as nature without nurture or nurture without nature. So that was one very important message from the report, and that comes from neuroscience as well as from behavioral sciences.

A second point was the importance of paying more attention to the social and emotional development of young children, not instead of the more traditional focus on their intellectual development and their language development, but equally important. And the reason for that is because there is a very strong science of emotional development and social development. It's not just kind of a touchy-feely kind of phenomenon that scientists can't study. We have a great deal of brain research that tells us how emotions are very much embedded in the architecture of the brain and the function of the brain.

So the report was very clear, particularly in speaking to some of the debates going on in our country right now about whether we should be focusing more, for example, in Head Start, on early literacy experiences. Our conclusion from the science is that absolutely early literacy experiences are very important for young children, but they're no more important than paying attention to children's social health and their emotional well-being.

There was a lot of interest at the time the report came out about how to optimally prepare children to be ready to succeed in school—the school readiness agenda. How do we help children come to school ready to learn? Well, the Neurons to Neighborhoods report was very emphatic in stating that children are born ready to learn. We don't have to make them ready to learn. We don't have to teach them how to learn. They are wired from the beginning to learn, and they're wired to experience and to master the world around them.

So our focus was on not so much a scientific formula for how to ignite a passion for learning in young children, but drawing on a great deal of science to show how children can't help but want to learn about what's going on around them, and our job is to provide an optimal environment in which each child can pursue his or her development as far as it will go."

JIM CURRAN
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Post by JIM CURRAN » Wed Jun 04, 2008 8:56 am

Thanks Angus for a very interesting post. The Children Of The Code website is a superb facility and the video resource is essential viewing.

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Susan Godsland
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