Governor Deval Patrick visits a classroom in Stoneham, Massachusetts. Credit: Eric Haynes / Office of Governor Patrick / Flickr Creative Commons
When research points to the root cause of major social issues, how should policymakers respond? We talk to Governor Deval Patrick, who recently announced a host of early education policy initiatives that reflect new research on childhood development.
When it comes to early education, the political is also personal for Governor Patrick. He points to his own childhood in an unstable environment -- characterized by violence and drug use, where his uncle, an addict, would use heroin in the family home. This experience drives home research indicating that constant stress can have a detrimental impact on children.
Though Patrick says he always had a strong desire to learn, he recognizes the presence of caring adult role models – at church and especially at school - as essential to his success. “I’ve always loved to read, as far as I can remember back, but I don’t remember owning a book of my own until I was 14, when I came to Milton Academy,” he recalls. The presence of these role models – who, as he describes them, “were intentional about encouraging me and making me feel safe” – made all the difference.
That's why Patrick is proposing expanding access to early education and enrichment programs beyond communities that can afford them on their own. “Parents, including poor parents, they get the impact of those programs,” he explains. “But in a community that doesn’t have those kinds of resources, that’s where the government should step in and help.”