The mapping exercise of our personal activities and interests has revealed a broad and deep commitment to the values and principles by which we live. (Check out the bulletin board near the entrance to the Guild Room.) This week, I experienced first-hand, the passion of one of our members in an organization called the Ounce of Prevention Fund. Their luncheon in Chicago brought together 900 of Anne Tuohy’s compatriots in the cause for highest quality early childhood education- meaning from birth to 60 months (0-5 years). The keynote speaker, Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D., is an expert in the brain development of young children. The facts and figures he presented were both head-nodding recognition supported by mind-boggling statistics. The bottom line was that our current trajectory in the education of children 0-5 is woefully inadequate, yet the solution lies within reach.
I didn’t take notes, and I don’t know Perry’s statistics, but what I came away with was this: any support we can give to the pre-school education of our children will, in fact, change the current trajectory of human history. The bottom line is that children in the earliest years benefit most by human contact – holding, verbal communication, reading, playing, including others beyond the nuclear family. If they don’t get that intense and positive relationship development, they don’t become relational, empathic human beings. When these young children do experience the nurture, joy and complexity of early personal relationships and community, they are prepared to succeed in school and throughout their lives.
For over fifty years, St. Elisabeth’s has supported pre-school education. That project came to an end two years ago for lack of enrollment and other reasons that are less clear. That Highland Park Montessori Schools approached us to extend their program into Glencoe at St. Elisabeth’s helps us continue a mission that seems now, even more than ever, a critical need in our society.
Perhaps, if we put on our cynical hats, we can say that the “privileged” children enrolled in Glencoe Montessori School at St. Elisabeth’s would have found the needed stimulation in their lives. The reality is that, whatever one’s socio-economic position, all children need environments that nurture healthy emotional development and social relationships at home and in the larger community. For those children growing up in families that are poor and less educated and whose communities are under-resourced, the Ounce of Prevention network provides a continuum of high quality resources that stimulate the optimum development of children in their first five years and support their parents in nurturing healthy, loving, and secure relationships and stimulating a love of learning and creativity.
Watch for an Adult Forum in the near future to broaden our understanding of the deep need for pre-school education. Some may think this a political statement, since in the current budget conversations many want to eliminate pre-school education as “unnecessary.” The scientific data go far beyond “politics” and into the realm of democratic moral discourse. Such discourse I believe is the arena of what we pray, “Thy Kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven.” Our “mapping” is how you and I participate in being signs of God’s Realm, here and now. Like the wonderful stories we are hearing this Eastertide in the Adult Forum as people share their personal journeys in life and faith, I hope we might share the stories of our passions of how we live out those journeys in the world.