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DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET Introduction In the first edition of this book we put forward a call to early childhood care and education folks to reclaim our profession’s roots, rethink what we want our programs to stand for, and transform program environments for young children. We believed then, and over a decade later continue to believe, that our profession is at a critical crossroads, with some continu- ing and some new challenges before us. If together we are willing to meet the challenge of taking charge of our future as a profession, we have a rich history to draw on and some new pioneers to inspire us. The alternative is for children to spend the early years of their childhoods in cookie-cutter, sterilized, commercialized settings. The choice before us is one of enrich- ing or diminishing our human potential. Over the past forty years, the early childhood field has formed stan- dards to help educators and families recognize quality programs for chil- dren. For instance, mention the topic of environments and most educators have images of familiar room arrangements with the same type of learning areas and materials—easy to spot when you peek into almost any accred- ited child care, preschool, or Head Start classroom. Early childhood educa- tors have established professional standards that stress the importance of an orderly, safe environment; learning areas; and materials that are cultur- ally and developmentally appropriate. Our profession has developed rating scales and assessment tools to keep us reaching for higher quality. Most states now have implemented Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS) with Environment Rating Scales (ERS). Researchers and policy makers now recognize early childhood as a key time of life for young learners, and our government and private foundations are pronouncing early education as a priority. The tireless (or should we say tiring?) advo- cacy work of so many early childhood professionals is paying off, and we all have much to celebrate and be proud of. However, inherent in most good things are the seeds of their opposites. In many cases, those who have little direct experience with teaching young children are shaping the new government emphasis on the importance of early childhood, and their emphasis is on preparing children as future citizens, rather than seeing them as today’s citizens. Standards and policies are often developed with a tenor of mistrust of the actual teachers and a presumption that outside experts know what is best. This concern under- lies the development of the book you are holding. With the first edition of COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL 1