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COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL 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 children. 9 COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL