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DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET MOVING EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION FORWARD | 15 tion. Anointing this book with historical significance likely overstates the moment. Yet it’s nonetheless noteworthy that for the first time the field is expressing an openness to confronting the gap between its aspirations and its current realities. There appears to be growing willingness to acknowledge that the systems chang- es ahead require making hard choices that to date have largely been evaded. This may truly be a defining moment for ECE as a field of practice. Entering Uncharted Water ECE has become typified by its outward focus: building public awareness and expanding public and policy support to address the systemic consequences of its explosive growth and to plug weaknesses increasingly being magnified, as limita- tions of the field’s current occupational structure are revealed in the face of new realities. Yet despite massive efforts and investments since the 1990s directed to- ward building statewide ECE systems, consequential change has been elusive. The time has come for an inward focus and effecting change from inside out. 44 Early educators’ crucial role in effecting children’s positive learning and develop- ment has been empirically confirmed. It’s no longer possible to ignore the nega- tive consequences stemming from inconsistencies in practitioners’ knowledge and skills. The ECE field needs to step forward, act on its convictions, and engage with what should be its work: structuring ECE as a profession capable of preparing and supporting practitioners who consistently contribute to children’s optimum learning and development regardless of setting, sponsor, or funding stream. The journey begins with conversations that explore possibilities for restructuring ECE, confronting choices that await us, and moving forward. This book presents questions along with guidance for conversations with the inten- tion of creating shared meaning to inform an alternative future for The journey begins ECE as a professional field of practice. By offering an approach for with conversations that transcending fragmented thinking and enabling ECE’s outlines as explore possibilities . . . a profession to emerge, conversations with intent will launch the field’s first collective action in service to restructuring ECE as a field of practice. Collective leadership will be required to structure ECE as a profession. While we can learn from other professions’ experiences, ECE is entering into uncharted ter- ritory. As a starting point, we need to become more deeply aware of the systems COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL