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Are We Afraid to Talk about Love? Please Comment
July 26, 2021
One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life: that word is love.

Dear Exchange Community,

Last Monday, we quoted Ashely Montagu’s article, in one of the Art of Leadership books, where he wrote, “the teaching of love should be the central core of all early childhood curriculum – with all other subjects growing naturally out of such teaching.”

Two public comments on that ExchangeEveryDay were intriguing. Francis Wardle wrote that “While I totally agree with this view, I bet you can’t find love in any state early childhood standards.” And Joyce Kinney wrote: “Love this concept. I’m wondering about resources for accomplishing this. I can think of several but the word “love” isn’t included in the why’s of using specific strategies such as the Pyramid. Are we afraid of talking specifically about love?”

It’s a great question, so we’re asking you, Exchange readers, what you think. Is the early childhood field afraid to talk about love? And if so, why is that?

We’ve been looking at some of our Exchange resources which we think address the importance of love in early care and education: Illuminating Care, Heart-Centered Teaching Inspired by Nature and Happiness is Running through the Streets to Find You. But perhaps we need to be more explicit about using the word love?

Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts (in the comments) on this important topic. We’d love to hear from you.

With gratitude,
Your Exchange Team

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Comments (14)

Displaying All 14 Comments
Tiffany Peckham · July 27, 2021
Lincoln, Nebraska, Australia

I want to thank everyone for having an engaging conversation on the topic of love in early childhood education. I loved reading all of your perspectives. I'm glad we have this space to discuss important topics.

-Tiffany at Exchange

Linda Boss · July 26, 2021
University of WI-Platteville
Lewistown, PA, United States

There was a time when candidates for a position in ECE would say they wanted to work in this field because they loved children. I fear we may now convey the impression that loving children is not enough to qualify someone to do this important work.
I think some questions to ask are "What does it mean to love children?" and "How do we demonstrate love of children through our work?" I think these would be good questions to add to the interview process.

Therese Wiart Jenkinson · July 26, 2021
Mount Royal University
Calgary, AB, Canada

I use to receive this daily and then I had to cancel my email. I missed the daily words of wisdom. I'm back!

Kirsten Haugen · July 26, 2021
Eugene, OR, United States

This is an even trickier issue for my male colleagues in ECE, many of whom I've gotten to know through the World Forum Working Group on Men in ECE. These are some of the most loving and values-driven people I know, and they often face incredible discrimination, usually in the form of doubt or suspicion, for choosing to care for young children. I would love to delve into the issue of love in ECE, and include the issues particular to men in the field. On a more positive note, there's a whole lot of love in the world of caregiving, and I'm super excited to read the book currently on my bedside table: Illuminating Care, by Carol Garboden Murray!

Joyce Kinney · July 26, 2021
Omaha, NE, United States

Glad to see Frances and I agree on this. Love is a concept that still has a lot of differing perspectives on it. I think it will be a while before it can show up in state standards, but maybe we look at other ways of saying it. I'm wondering if it might be expressed somehow in the New DAP. Think I'll take a look.

Lisa Massar · July 26, 2021
New Braunfels, Texas, United States

After receiving Exchange Every Day for over fifteen years and using its valuable resources to enrich my own and my staff's work in faith-based programs, this is the first time I've ever felt strongly about responding online. I agree with Andrea (above) about the inability to define the word 'love'. In today's usage, it can mean so much or so little. How would we define the word in a curricular sense -- care, compassion, kindness, empathy? I am grateful to see this discussion, as it seems to me that we are all reaching for a deeper way to convey how we feel about our callings with young children and what we hope to achieve.

Beth O’Connor · July 26, 2021
The Family Connection of St Joseph County, Inc
South Bend, IN, United States

Harry Harlow talked about this very issue so many years ago when he was president of the APA and in response to his studies of attachment in rhesus macaques. Psychologists are uncomfortable talking about love because it doesn’t seem ‘scientific.’ But we in early childhood must talk about it and study it and understand it in all its complexities. Thank you to Exchange for providing the platform to do it well.

Vicki Zaworski · July 26, 2021
Portage, Mi, United States

The biggest problem with the topic of teaching love is that the English language has only one word for 'love'. The Greek language has at least 4 words which translates into English as love. Storge means love of/within family. Phileo is love of friends. Agape is general love of fellow man. Eros is obviously related to romantic love. That said we do need to teach 3 of the above incessantly. We need to teach the meanings therein and how to express it. American's frequently make the fatal assumption that any discussion about love always leads to Eros which is the least successful or useful form of love and it can be the most divisive.

Amy S. David · July 26, 2021
Kingswood Christian Preschool
Crozet, VA, United States

This is a tough topic in that it depends on what setting you are working in. I for instance work in a faith-based preschool program so we can talk about love openly. That is different when you are in a state run program when you can't really even tell the children that you love them. It make me sad. Then it also makes it harder on educators to show love without crossing any lines of conduct in their setting.

Love is crucial to education. Children need to feel loved, safe, and supported before any learning can happen. People need not to be afraid of the word. It does carry a lot of meaning to it which can be expressed in many ways. I see it more like a spectrum. One example would be that I do not have the same type of love that I have for my students in comparison to the love I have for my partner.

We just need to be comfortable talking about it.

Andrea Dekker · July 26, 2021
United Way of Tucson & Southern Arizona
TUCSON, AZ, United States

Love is a loaded word with so much emotion behind it. And we all differ in what it means. I personally care deeply for the children I care for but I don't use the word love - except with my closest family and friends. Could we use other phrases that indicate the strong caring we exhibit? Could we use compassion, respect, thoughtfulness, empathy, caring? You get the idea. I mean what IS love? That is harder to capture in a collective way!

Joyce Trigger · July 26, 2021
Shady Oak Christian School
Richmond , Texas , United States

I like the challenge of connecting love and the “pedagogy of care” that we have recently been hearing about.
Resources supporting reflective practices with our staff would be useful too.
Living daily with the practices of love is the best way I can think of to build it into the curriculum.

Allan Shedlin · July 26, 2021
DADvocacy Consulting Group
Chevy Chase, MD, United States

Please check this 7/22/21 Daddying blog:

John Surr · July 26, 2021
Charlottesville, VA, United States

We work in both Care and Education. Love is essential for the positive growth of a child, especially during the infant attachment process, during which the parts of the brain that integrate thoughts, sensations, and emotions are built through close relationships with trusted, loving caregivers. For the rest of our lives, loving care is basic to strong relationships and feelings of self-worth. Love matters! Do it.

Murless Harris · July 26, 2021
Bombeck Family Learning Center
dayton, Ohio, United States

love is an action word. You cant incorporate love into your curriculum if you don't feel loved. teachers must show and give children love so they feel it, but first take care of self in order to teach and show love. I think its very necessary to incorporate love in teaching.

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