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DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET 14  |   CHAPTER ONE These insights help us recognize that ECE’s fragmented status as a field of prac- tice, underdeveloped workforce, and uneven promotion of learning and develop- ment in early learning settings result from the way in which the field’s systemic elements are interconnected. The current connections among ECE’s systemic elements are clearly not well serving children, families, or society. Current connections among ECE’s systemic elements are clearly not well serving children, families, or society. ECE has always been a system. There always have been connec- tions among its parts, but their interrelationships no longer are adequate in the context of the field’s new realities. Only restructuring the current system can remedy the consequences being experienced by the field and those dependent upon it. 40 Organizing ECE as a professional field of practice restructures ECE’s current occu- pational configuration, allowing the field’s tough challenge to be tackled at a systemic level responsive to its complexity. ABOUT THIS BOOK I think Professionalizing Early Childhood Education As a Field of Practice: A Guide to the Next Era has the potential to be historically meaningful for ECE as a field of practice. Throughout its history in the United States—using the kindergarten movement as my marker for the onset of ECE as a field of practice—ECE has evolved haphazardly. Sheldon White and Steve Buka described the field’s de- velopment prior to the creation of Head Start as a research and development sequence. 41 Different versions of ECE emerged from practical needs, private and government projects, and insights from philosophy, educational ideologies, and utopian programs. Since Head Start, the field’s evolution has been characterized by expanding programs and policies, galvanized then, as now, by the potential for social change. Bernard Spodek and Herbert Walberg called this period an era of abundance. 42 Then in the 1990s, driven by the field’s expansion, particu- larly the growing numbers of children in child care, systems development took precedence over program development. Now, twenty-five years later, the ECE field is still grappling with creating systems that meaningfully affect the caliber of children’s early learning experiences. This is not the first time the question of professionalizing ECE as a field of prac- tice has arisen, 43 but this does seem to be the first time the question is getting trac- COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL