Monday, July 06, 2020

A Declaration of Interdependence for Young Children, Parents, Caregivers, and Educators

In 1776, 56 men in the American colonies signed their names to a radical document called the Declaration of Independence. As a result they were, without trial, proclaimed traitors by the British government and sentenced to death. These were middle class people. John Hancock was the wealthiest among them and he was not even a millionaire by today's standards. The wealthy sided with the king. Most of the signers were working people -- farmers and tradesmen primarily. None of them left behind a family fortune, or a foundation, or any other kind of financial memorial of their lives. The United States is their legacy.

Their average age was 33 (Thomas Jefferson's age at the time). The youngest was only 20-years-old. The oldest was Benjamin Franklin, who was 83.

As a result of having signed the Declaration of Independence, all 56 of the signers were forced to flee their homes. Twelve returned to find only rubble.

As a result of having signed the Declaration of Independence, 17 of them were wiped out financially by the British government.

As a result of having signed the Declaration of Independence, many of them were captured and tortured, or their families were imprisoned, or their children were taken from them. Nine of them died and four of them lost their children.

As I read the Declaration of Independence on Saturday, as I do each July 4, I find myself in awe of their courage. They were all aware of the likely consequences, but they did what they knew must be done. Two centuries later, I still feel the outrage they must have felt as I read through the specific governmental abuses that lead them to that critical moment. This document, coming during a time of global upheaval, was a declaration of unity, of both independence and interdependence. 

The world once more is in a state of upheaval, one that calls upon 'we the people' to summon courage, to come together, and to not just envision a better world, but to do something about it. As early childhood educators, parents, caregivers, as citizens of the world, we are called upon to stand up together on behalf of the young children in our care, to give voice to their best interests, to insist upon their rights, and to demand that we take this moment in history to protect their childhood from those who would rob them of it.

This is the hope for the upcoming The Play First Summit which I am producing alongside my friend and colleague Sally Haughey of Fairy Dust Teaching, a free online gathering featuring 20 ECE thought-leaders and tens of thousands of participants from around the world. Too often relegated to the fringes, the rights and needs of young children and those who care for them have been neglected for too long. Our hope is to draw the early childhood education world together in unity and interdependence to demand that governments of the world recognize the rights of their youngest citizens by ensuring their guardians a seat at the table as we figure out how to move forward toward a new, uncertain future.

In that spirit we offer the Declaration of Interdependence for Young Children, Parents, Caregivers, and Educators:

            As early childhood educators, parents, caregivers, and citizens of the world, we the undersigned acknowledge that our highest ethical and moral obligation is to always do, above all else, what is in the highest and best interest of the children in our care.

            In this time of upheaval, pandemic, and change, a time in which our long established systems are being challenged and called into question, we are alarmed to see the needs of our youngest citizens being marginalized and ignored in the rush to re-open the world economy.

            Our contribution to the economy is indeed foundational and essential, yet the early childhood community is here to first and foremost serve children and their families.

            As such, we call on all governments to ensure that the rights of children are represented in every issuance of guidance, policy, and law that impacts the lives of young children and those who represent their best and highest interests.

            We demand our seat at the table.

            United and interdependent in our guardianship.

Please sign the declaration (by clicking here) and then share it far and wide. There are already more than 40,000 people signed up for the summit. If each shares this with ten people, we will be nearly halfway to our goal of 1 million signatures, which will make this declaration a powerful statement of interdependence, one that cannot be easily ignored. When educators and parents unite, there is no force on earth that can stop us.


I'm excited to announce that Teacher Tom's Second Book is now available in the UK, Iceland, and Europe thanks to my friends at Fafunia! It's also available in the US and Canada. If you want to go directly to the Fafunia page click here.  And if you missed it, Teacher Tom's First Book is back in print as well.

And finally, this is uncomfortable for me, but I earn most of my income by speaking at education conferences and running in-person workshops. I've had 95 percent of my income wiped out for the foreseeable future due to everything being cancelled. I'm hustling to become a new and improved Teacher Tom. I know I'm not the only one living with economic insecurity, but if you like what you read here, please consider hitting the yellow donate button below. 

I put a lot of time and effort into this blog. If you'd like to support me please consider a small contribution to the cause. Thank you!
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