Wellesley Professor Emerita of Education Dr. Barbara Beatty on Universal Pre-K for America
Barbara R. Beatty
Professor Emerita of Education
Historian of education and of childhood, teacher education, and education reform; preschool policy and advocacy
After teaching kindergarten in the Boston Public Schools, directing a laboratory preschool, and studying developmental psychology, I became interested in the historical question of why the United States, unlike most developed countries, does not provide universal preschool education, the topic of my book Preschool Education in America. I've also written about teachers, teacher education, and the relationship of psychology to education reform, particularly Jean Piaget's psychology and the fate of child-centered education. I do research on the history of childhood, as well, particularly on young, "educationally disadvantaged" children. All of these themes relate to attempts to increase social equity through education.
I teach courses on the history of American education and on the history of childhood and child welfare. By closely examining documents from the past, I think we can learn a lot about how Americans fought over what education should be like, for which students, and why. We can also see how teachers struggled to deal with society's increasing demands for schools to solve social problems. By studying children's lives in the past we can try to get a sense of the gap between adults' prescriptions and policies and children's experiences and needs, and of how children are historical actors who create their own cultures.
I've been an Associate Editor of History of Education Quarterly for more than ten years and am also active in the American Educational Research Association and the Society for the History of Children and Youth. I've worked with colleagues to edit books and journals on kindergartens, preschools, parenting, and child welfare. As an advocate for universal preschool education, I've participated in the national debate over preschool policy. As a teacher educator and member of the Consortium for Excellence in Teacher Education, the group of Ivy League and other selective colleges to which Wellesley belongs, I've worked for many years to raise the status of teaching as a profession. I think increased access to high quality preschool and teacher education and better support for teachers will go far to help close achievement gaps in American education.
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