The Value of Values
Whitehead, Diane P., Childhood Education
During my tenure as Acting Executive Director of ACEI, I have been asked to describe to various audiences what ACEI does. I carefully reference the mission statement summary of what ACEI aspires to do, which is "to promote and support in the global community the optimal education and development of children from birth through early adolescence." Recently, however, I received a question from a colleague that was phrased slightly differently and that caused me to consider the true nature of ACEI. Instead of asking me what ACEI does, my colleague asked, "What does ACEI value?"
The slight deviation of this question from the more typical "What does ACEI do?" had me stumped. My well-versed recitation of the mission statement did not seem to be a good response to this rather pointed question. Mission statements are, of course, wonderful descriptors of what organizations aspire to do, but they don't necessarily describe what a community of members values. To answer this question, one would need to look to the organization's history and the values that have revealed themselves through the organization's actions over time.
Since its inception, ACEI has been firm in its belief that all children have a right to develop to their full capacity in an environment that is child-centered and respects them as individuals with unique needs, gifts, and talents. The early years of the organization often engaged educators in rights-based advocacy, in the realization that education goals for children could never be fully achieved unless children's lives were respected and valued. In those days, ACEI, which at that time was known as the International Kindergarten Union, was concerned with such issues as the treatment of orphans, the elimination of child labor, and ensuring that young children living in urban slums had access to kindergartens. ACEI members understood that education, as a right, could only be promised to children if their other rights were acknowledged and met. Rights are interdependent. …