” I have a dream. And I hope it is the American Dream that every child deserves a safe and healthy childhood. That every child deserves an equal opportunity for a great education. And I thank all of you for helping to keep this dream alive.”
As we announced earlier this year, Nancy Carlsson-Paige has been honored with a lifetime achievement Bammy award from the Academy of Education Arts and Sciences. The award ceremony was this past Saturday in Washington D.C. “celebrates what is right in American Education”. We are incredibly proud of Nancy, all that she has accomplished, and the powerful words she shared in her acceptance speech. Below you will find a link to video of the awards ceremony and the transcript of the award presentation.
ANNOUNCER: . . . And with that, we’re going to close this evening’s festivities by presenting our three final Bammy awards. Presenting our first Lifetime Achievement Award for the evening is my colleague, my good friend from the early education, and the physical education communities, and co-founder of the BAM Radio Network. A wonderful educator – a terrific person – Rae Pica.
PICA: I have long been a fan of this next honoree – and as someone who has been entrenched in early childhood education for more than 30 years, I am delighted at ECE is so well represented here tonight, and that this special honor is going to this person who is such a fierce defender of early childhood education.
To give you a brief overview of Nancy Carlsson-Paige’s work, I’d like to read you some titles. Her most recent book is called Taking Back Childhood. Her TED talk is called “When Education Goes Wrong: Taking Creativity and Play Out of Learning.” Some of her articles include: “How education policy is harming early childhood education” ; “How corporate education reforms are harming children” ; and “Academic skills- important only if they make us more human”.
When Mitt Romney and Barack Obama were running for president, she urged them to please start over, if they wanted to get early childhood education right.
Did I mention that she’s fierce?
When it comes to fighting back against education reforms that promote standardized testing – and the fight to keep early childhood a sacred time – Nancy does not back down.
But Nancy is also a promoter of peace, at Lesley University where she taught for more than 30 years – where she taught teachers for more than 30 years. She was the founder of the university’s Center for Peaceable Schools. She writes and speaks widely on peace education, conflict resolution, and education policies and practices that promote social justice and children’s well-being.
Nancy is the recipient of many awards, including Peace Educator of The Year; Outstanding Educator of The Year; Family Advocate of The Year. But she’s also famous for turning down an award, based on her principles. I’m delighted that she chose to accept this one, and I am most honored to be the one who presents a Bammy Award for Lifetime Achievement to Nancy Carlsson-Paige.
[applause – Nancy comes to front of stage]
CARLSSON-PAIGE: That was such a beautiful, beautiful appreciation . . . [aside] You hold it [award] for me.
[to audience] I think I didn’t quite take in what it means to get a Lifetime Achievement Award until this moment. Typical of me, actually. But they gave me a minute, instead of two sentences. And I wrote it, and timed it. Ready?
Um – it’s – it’s a great honor. Thank you so much, Rae, for that beautiful description. And thank you, to the Academy of Education, Arts and Sciences, for celebrating educators – and honoring the amazing work that you all do – and all the people who work in our field do.
The good will of this nine-pound award – can I feel it? – I lift weights, but that’s heavy. The good will of this award goes out to all teachers, especially early childhood teachers – too frequently underpaid, undervalued – but you do such important work.
Things are not that good in early childhood education right now. Almost a quarter of our nation’s children suffer the stresses of poverty. We’re the richest country in the world, and we have the highest child poverty rate among advanced nations. That bears repeating. We’re the richest nation in the world, and we have the highest child poverty rate among advanced nations.
Too few children have education at all in the early years. And even fewer have quality education. The standards and the testing and the accountability pressures that have been coming down and imposing on the upper grades have pushed down now to second grade, to first grade, to kindergarten, and even to pre-K.
I’m feeling so bad, because we’re talking about what’s right in education tonight and I’m – I’m not doing that, but – hey – it’s me. We have a much more scripted curriculum in the early years. Much more teacher directed instruction. We are seeing much less active, hands-on, meaningful learning and almost no play. We are seeing a phenomenal disappearance of play in early childhood classrooms. For those of you who know education and child development you I am sure you understand that play is really the cornerstone of understanding in the early years.
My inbox has more and more messages every day from mothers, father, teachers. Just the other day, this is what I saw…
“They’ve eliminated play and recess for first graders and kindergarteners in my child’s school. In kindergarten they are completely scheduled. They have no time to play. My 5-year-old has to eat snack while working at her desk.”
So I have a dream. And I hope it is the American Dream that every child deserves a safe and healthy childhood. That every child deserves an equal opportunity for a great education. And I thank all of you for helping to keep this dream alive. Thank you.