Clawson%20and%20Gerstel%20Caring%20for%20our%20young -...

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contexts fall/winter 2002 28 caring for our young: child care in europe and the united states feature article dan clawson and naomi gerstel Parents in the United States struggle to find and afford even mediocre private child care. Most European countries provide quality publicly-funded programs. Should child care emphasize education or play? Parents or peers? Organized care or parental involvement? French preschool: Children in outside play area. The photographs accompanying this article were taken in two preschools, one in the United States and one in France. Both preschools offer children a structured schedule of adult-supervised activities and prepare students for academic schoolwork. However, most French but relatively few U.S. child care settings provide quality facilities, staff and care. French preschools are supported by state funds and free to individual families. In the United States, high-quality child care programs—such as the preschool shown here—cost hundreds of dollars per month. Photo courtesy of the French-American Foundation
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fall/winter 2002 contexts 29 When a delegation of American child care experts visited France, they were amazed by the full-day, free écoles mater- nelles that enroll almost 100 percent of French three-, four- and five-year-olds: Libraries better stocked than those in many U.S. elementary schools. Three-year-olds serving one another radicchio salad, then using cloth napkins, knives, forks and real glasses of milk to wash down their bread and chicken. Young children asked whether dragons exist [as] a lesson in developing vocabulary and creative thinking. In the United States, by contrast, working parents struggle to arrange and pay for private care. Publicly-funded child care programs are restricted to the poor. Although most U.S. par- ents believe (or want to believe) that their children receive quality care, standardized ratings find most of the care mediocre and much of it seriously inadequate. Looking at child care in comparative perspective offers us an opportunity—almost requires us—to think about our goals and hopes for children, parents, education and levels of social inequality. Any child care program or funding system has social and political assumptions with far-reaching consequences. National systems vary in their emphasis on education; for three- to five-year-olds, some stress child care as preparation for school, while others take a more playful view of childhood. Systems vary in the extent to which they stress that children’s early development depends on interaction with peers or some version of intensive mothering. They also vary in the extent to which they support policies promoting center-based care as opposed to time for parents to stay at home with their very young children. Each of these emphases entails different national assumptions, if only implicit, about children and par- ents, education, teachers, peers and societies as a whole. What do we want, why and what are the implications?
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This note was uploaded on 04/22/2010 for the course SOC 40187 taught by Professor Robert during the Fall '09 term at UC Davis.

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Clawson%20and%20Gerstel%20Caring%20for%20our%20young -...

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