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DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET PREFACE classrooms and listening to the concerns of teachers, managers, directors, and principals. I have become intimately familiar with early childhood education as it is actually practiced in the United States, and I have grown increasingly discouraged. What I initially understood to mean that the opposing camp had a lot of follow- ers in the wider world has given way to the stunning realization that the opposing camp has completely won the day. Despite the accumulated knowledge of the past three decades, under the mis- guided banner of school readiness and accountability, the pre- school experience has been reduced to tedious rote learning and strict conformity to routines. It is not that the practices we once held dear have vanished completely—they have become instead the almost exclusive purview of the well-to-do. Judging from the ever-widening achievement gap between rich and poor, it seems to be working quite well for them. I have therefore devoted a great deal of my time and energy persuading one teacher, one program at a time to give children what they know is best—and there lies the problem. I’m not telling them anything they don’t already know. They know child develop- ment. They’ve studied brain research. But they feel—and rightly so—completely constrained by public policy that demands that children be taught in a heavily scripted, incremental manner that flies in the face of everything they know is true. So I decided to write this book. It is addressed to policy mak- ers who perhaps are not aware of the everyday consequences to children and teachers of learning standards and accountability. It is addressed to teachers, school districts, and Head Start programs who have it within their power to provide the critical experiences and rich discourse children need in spite of the demands of the bureaucracies that look over their shoulders. It is written to parents xi COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL