Introduction to the First Edition
As a teacher of child development, I am always alarmed
when students share these stories, which they do frequently.
To leap from disregarding difficult texts that do a poor job
of introducing the subject to disregarding the importance of
theory in shaping practice seems a huge mistake. Knowing
the theoretical foundations of early childhood education is
critical to providing quality early care and education.
Not everyone agrees with me. A few years ago a survey of
child care directors was done in my state to guide the invest-
ment of training dollars. Many directors responded that they
didn’t care if teachers knew who Vygotsky or Erikson were,
but that they wanted them to know what to do when the
children were hitting or biting each other. The point these
directors missed is that teachers who know what to do when
children are hitting or biting are teachers who understand
child development. Many of the directors interviewed said
such things as “When I hire those college students, they are
full of theory but don’t know what to do in the classroom.
I’d rather hire someone with no college but a true enjoyment
of young children.” We need teachers who have both a true
enjoyment of children and a true understanding of how they
grow and learn. It seems that we have not been successful
at presenting child development as a usable tool for working
with young children more effectively. Perhaps we need to take
a different approach to introducing theory and its practice to
the beginning student or teacher.
It is true that most of us chuckle when we say, “Well, in
theory . . . ,” because we all expect gaps between any theory
and the way we are able to apply that theory in real life.
But these gaps are part of our growing understanding of
the complexity of growth and development. They are inevi-
table. This is not a good enough reason for practitioners to
dismiss theory as “irrelevant” to their day-to-day work with