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KIDS FIRST by David L. Kirp


Five Big Ideas for Transforming Children's Lives and America's Future

by David L. Kirp

Pub Date: March 1st, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-58648-947-2
Publisher: PublicAffairs

A comprehensive, community-based plan for education and child development.

It's been 15 years since Hillary Clinton said that it takes a village to raise a child, but so far, no one's been able to figure out how to make that happen. Kirp (Public Policy/Univ. of California, Berkeley; The Sandbox Investment: The Preschool Movement and Kids-First Politics, 2007, etc.) provides five concrete action items for society to adopt to ensure that children don’t fall through the cracks. This isn't strictly an education book—in fact, as the author writes in his first point, starting in schools is too late. Rather, we need to equip parents with the tools they need to care for their children from birth. His second point focuses on early-childhood education, a crucial time in child development that Kirp argues is often overlooked. His answer to the traditional school model is a more community-based structure in which schools are fully integrated into a student's life. Fourth, the author argues for the value of volunteers and the impact that mentors and other adults can have on a child's life. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Kirp stresses the necessity of making sure children have a nest egg or savings plan to finance higher education. The author backs his theories with countless examples of successful private and publicly funded programs that have taken on separate pieces of this plan, from Big Brothers Big Sisters to the I Have a Dream Foundation. While these programs have proven fruitful for certain tenets of the plan for certain groups, the key to Kirp’s treatise is uniformity: All children should have access to all of these opportunities—without that, success is almost arbitrary.

Skeptics will argue that this is a pipe dream; despite a carefully outlined budget in the appendix, it’s a valid point. However, the author provides an important, well-researched wake-up call, and any part of it that educators and lawmakers take into account is worthwhile.