Child Care vs. School/Education vs. Care

By Ellen Galinsky

The divide between how school is currently seen (as education) and child care is seen (as caring at best and as warehousing at worst) is not only infuriating, it is just plain wrong. What’s worse, it could take us back 40 years.

This backwards turn ignores the decades of research revealing that the early years are foundational to learning. It also ignores the decades of research revealing that children need both education and care when they are infants, toddlers and preschoolers, and when they are school-aged and older.

This is not a semantic argument. It is creating draconian decisions policy makers, educators, and families have to make. For families, it’s trying to stay safe, having your children learn and earn a living when in-person child care may be open but in-person school is not and you have different children in different places on different days of the week and your job is lost or in jeopardy. For teachers, it is trying to stay safe, trying to teach when children may not have connectivity or learn well online and your own child’s care is a house of cards. For programs and policy makers, it is trying to stay open or being forced to close because there isn’t enough money. And for everyone, it is ongoing uncertainty and fear.

Thank you, Elliot Haspel—author of Crawling Behind: America's Childcare Crisis and How to Fix It—for your eloquence and perfect timing for this OpEd. He highlights “the duality of the conversations around child cares programs and public schools and the perceived gap between what “care” and “education” mean. That gap has set the two sectors on different paths of funding, governance and professional power.” in "Why Are Child Cares Open When Schools Are Not?” and the even more explicit lead-in “Society’s perception of child care being of lesser quality to education has rarely been so pronounced” for The New York Times.

If ever there was a time to try to heal schisms, this is it!