Occasional Paper Series #42

A Bizarro World for Infants and Toddlers and Their Teachers

by Marcy Whitebook

A bizarro world reverses our everyday realities. You may be familiar with the concept if you have ever read DC Comics or watched Seinfeld. In the bizarro world I envision for our nation’s infants and toddlers, family income would not determine whether their parents could afford to take time off work in the first months of their lives or their right to high-quality early care and education. In my bizarro world, the staff in every infant-toddler program, whether offered in a center or home, would be steeped in the science of child development and early learning pedagogy and could depend on good wages and working conditions.

In this world, the most revered teachers would be those who work with infants and toddlers. It would be widely understood that“baby” teachers — as early educators were once called — require as much knowledge and skill as teachers of older children andthat the quality of children’s experiences depend on their teachers’ ability and well- being. These coveted jobs would be sought by men and women alike. Gender and racial bias would have no role in establishing pay rates, and the infant-toddler workforce would be racially and linguistically diverse.

Read the Full Essay

About the Author

Marcy Whitebook began her career as an infant-toddler teacher, which taught her the importance of improving child care jobs as key to ensuring children’s right to high- quality early care and education. Joining with teachers who shared her understanding of link between child and adult well-being, they founded the Child Care Employee Project (CCEP) in 1977. In 1989, CCEP conducted the National Child Care Staffing Study, which first brought public attention to the low wages and high turnover of child care teachers and their impact on child outcomes CCEP (later to become the Center for the Child Care Workforce), and also spearheaded the national Worthy Wage Campaign. Marcy founded and serves as the Co-Director of the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment (CSCCE) at the University of California at Berkeley. Her recent works—the Early Childhood Workforce Index and Worthy Work, and STILL Unlivable Wages: The Early Care and Education Workforce 25 Years after the National Child Care Staffing Study—document the current status of the workforce and analyze how workforce policies serve to support and/or undermine effective teaching, contribute to inequitable services for children and families, and often pose risks to the personal and familial well-being of the workforce itself.