This is the first in a series of interviews and photo essays by the North Carolina-based artist and educator Kathryn Ervin exploring the experience of childhood and the nature of caregiving in the American South. We believe that traditions of caregiving — both good and bad — provide a resource for innovation, renewal, and perspective for best meeting the challenges facing children and families today and in the future.
Earlier this year we launched Capita to explore how the great cultural and social transformations of our day affect young children, and to foster new ideas to ensure a future in which children and their families flourish. We are pleased to see our work and ideas featured today in Quartz. Read the full story at Quartz.
Do we wish to build a future of comfort and security for our children or do we aspire to shape them for a life of heroism, contemplation, service, and purpose beyond themselves?
Play teaches a child a great number of things: self-regulation and self-control, organizational skills and resilience, to name a few; yet, we do not often think of play as teaching wisdom. Thomas Aquinas, the greatest of Medieval philosophers, suggests we should think of play much more deeply than we do.
"The United States has a strong tradition of encouraging people to pursue their interests, aspirations, in spite of the obstacles that may be on the way. This can-do attitude has benefited the country immensely over the years. In this context, it is important that we create and support both private and public institutions that support people’s ability to meet their aspirations, that facilitate their access to other people and their resources."
Mario L. Small, Ph.D., Grafstein Family Professor at Harvard University, is the author of award-winning books and articles on networks, poverty, organizations, culture, methods, neighborhoods, institutions, and other topics. He is currently using large-scale administrative data to understand isolation in cities, studying how people use their networks to meet their needs, and exploring the epistemological foundations of qualitative research. His latest book is Someone To Talk To (Oxford). A study of how people decide whom to approach when seeking support, the book is an inquiry into human nature, a critique of network analysis, and a discourse on the role of qualitative research in the big-data era.
Mario serves on Capita’s Advisory Board and spoke with me recently about leveraging early childhood education and care programs to build social capital, his latest research, and what he thinks is healthiest about America today.
"All parents want the best for their children, often worry about the future for their children and welcome parenting information and support. Thus, the time is now for advancing the wellbeing of the next generation of young children with targeted and state of the art efforts. Hence, this is space where the Perigee Fund seeks to have influence."
David Willis, M.D. is the Executive Director of the Perigee Fund, a new philanthropic endeavor based in Seattle, promoting early relational health, improving young children’s social emotional development and advancing infant early childhood mental health in Washington State, the northwest and nationally. Prior to joining Perigee, David served as the Director of the Division of Home Visiting and Early Childhood Services within the Health Resources and Services Administration, within the Obama Administration. Boarded in Pediatrics and Behavioral and Developmental Pediatrics, Dr. Willis was a clinician for 30 years in Portland, Oregon and long-standing early childhood leader in Oregon and nationally. Dr. Willis was a Harris Mid-Career Fellow with ZERO TO THREE, past President of the Oregon Pediatric Society, an executive member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Early Education and Child Care, the first Chair the AAP’s Board’s Early Brain & Child Development Strategic Initiative and a previous member of Dr. Jack Shonkoff’s Frontiers for Innovation at Harvard’s Center for the Developing Child.
A great friend of Capita’s, Dave shared his thoughts on his new role, the importance of early relational health, and why he remains optimistic about our country’s — and our children’s — future with us last week.
A more comprehensive public policy agenda would help spur investment and collaboration between and across public sector agencies and departments, but also private, philanthropic, and academic stakeholders who are just as critical in ensuring that the proper resources and supports are available for children to develop and thrive. Without such a policy, significant service gaps will continue to exist — gaps which no one service provider can be expected to fix.
"When new digital technologies emerge, typically the risks are not well communicated or assessed due to a lack of evidence. Parents would benefit from accessible and reliable information sources which tell what are known positive/negative factors to date and what is still unknown in order to determine their preferred usage of digital technologies."
Takao Watanabe is Co-founder and CEO of MITSUGO, where innovation for early childhood development has been cradled. One of the products, Language Jungle, has been selected as one of the Top Ideas in Early Childhood Innovation Prize on openIDEO. He has 10+ years academic and industrial experience of research and development in human/robot interaction.
"Having a child in your arms reminds you that you are holding, quite literally, the next generation — the next set of characters to people this world, and you, along with your DNA, values, and habits, are passing on, most of all, generational memory. I thought that perhaps if I released all this information, this trauma, onto the page, transformed it into something physical (like a book), even something beautiful, I wouldn’t have to transfer it to or into my daughter. Instead, I could create something that could serve as a roadmap for her, and coincidentally, for other people, so that we do not repeat history — personal and political at that."
Cinelle Barnes is an essayist and memoirist from Manila, Philippines. She has received fellowships and scholarships from Kundiman and Voices of the Nations Arts, and is the incoming writer-in-residence at the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art. Her work has appeared in Catapult, Buzzfeed, and Literary Hub, among others. Her debut memoir, MONSOON MANSION (May 2018, Little A), has been an Amazon Bestseller and Amazon First Reads Editor’s Pick, and a Booklist Starred Review. Her forthcoming essay collection, ORACLE, will be out in fall 2019.
These books have inspired, informed, and fostered a deeper committment to the work of our closest collaborators in 2018. We are pleased to share them with you and hope they will be read profitably wherever your summer vacation takes you!
"Early childhood educators and caregivers overall are among the most “future-proof” occupations (in that they are at lower risk to have significant number of tasks automated in the near future). Technology and AI will impact how we deliver learning and will allow us to automate rote tasks, but the uniquely human skills involved in caring for people will remain marketable."
Molly G. Martin is the director of New America Indianapolis — a National Network hub launched in 2017 to focus on the innovative grassroots solutions Hoosiers are developing to make the Circle City more livable, resilient, and equitable. Prior to joining New America, Martin spent ten years at Lumina Foundation and previously worked in higher education student affairs.
Those of us who concern ourselves with the well-being, growth, and healthy development of children, as well as all of us bearing some responsibility for the systems that support children, should begin today to prepare the way for a future in which caregiving is both essentially and pragmatically a human endeavour.
If the modern university is neither hospitable to the life of the mind nor consistently helping students achieve the American Dream while saddling them with an average monthly student loan payment of $393 then what’s the university all about?
"If you want to predict the future look to our future leaders - what issues they care about, what resonates with them, what projects are they working on."
Matthew Rascoff leads Learning Innovation at Duke University. He previously founded and led Learning Technology & Innovation for the University of North Carolina system. Before UNC, Matthew worked as an advisor to education foundations and launched Amplify’s product development center in Durham, NC. After undergraduate studies at Columbia University he did graduate work at Bogazici University in Istanbul on a Fulbright Scholarship. He earned an MBA from Harvard Business School. Matthew serves on Capita’s Advisory Board.