“We can’t allow children to go up the slide.” “Licensing does not allow us to have Loose Parts in the environment.” “Our insurance does not allow us to have swings.” “Parents do not want us to talk about diversity. They say it is divisive.”
These are just a few of the many comments and opinions that I have heard in my 30 years in early childhood education. Amidst the barrage of comments, there is an underlying sentiment.
“This is what I think—and I am entitled to my opinion!”
However, I will venture to challenge this line of thinking. An opinion is not a fact, and there may be a level of falsehood within our review. This is what the process of believing our thoughts looks like:
- When I was a child, I fell going up the slide – You have a memory and an experience.
- The rule is children can’t go up the slide – Out of protectiveness and fear, I create a rule.
- A colleague asks you about the rule – You have a hard time explaining your fears or choose not to express your fear of going up the slide.
- You tell the colleague that it is according to licensing. – Often, this fact is not researched, and there is no proof or evidence. I get it! Reading the licensing requirements is confusing and a difficult task.
- The rule becomes institutionalized, and no children are allowed to go up the slide.
- Licensing says that children can’t go up the slide becomes part of the school culture – a new urban myth is born.
Why do we have the responsibility to fact-check ourselves? Because opinions are not often researched or validated, and in the process, we transmit falsehoods. Therefore, not all opinions are equally valuable, and they may affect our practices as we educate and care for young children. As educators, we must embrace the responsibility to base our decisions on facts and knowledge. That means we fact-check what we say and what we do. The next time someone or even yourself shares an opinion as a fact, ask what the argument is based on. Is it based on measurable data with some compelling outcome? What research is used to support it? Is there a solid theory supporting the opinion? If it is the latter, take it with a grain of salt before you value it or apply it in your work.
When you have a strong opinion about something that you know very little about, try to figure out why before you give strong credence to the belief. Alarmingly, most humans believe that their opinions are facts. We incorrectly assume that our thoughts are correct. I mean, if we think it, it must be true? Right?
After all, we owe young children the opportunity to climb up the slide and learn some essential life lessons. Going up the slide may teach children to:
- Be creative and innovative
- Wait until another child comes down the slide,
- Measure their physical skills,
- Negotiate who goes first,
- Respond with empathy when someone needs help going up,
- Take measured risks,
- Be joyful and proud of their accomplishments
Indeed, many of our opinions are based on emotions, personal history, and values—we still have the responsibility to reflect, change, and let go of beliefs and opinions that are not necessarily supported by meaningful evidence. It is only then that we will create a culture where critical thinking leads our practices. When we let go of our opinions and make room for diverse perspectives, we become more creative and innovative and create spaces where children’s creativity thrives.