A quiet, unassuming discussion group on the LinkedIn Zero to Three Discussion forum highlights an interesting divide between providers that points to some very different views of what the field of Early Learning should look like, and how providers view themselves. The discussion about how ECE can attract well-educated professionals to the field turned towards how low pay keeps people from staying in the field and colleges from recommending their students to go into ECE. However, there are those (few admittedly on this discussion group) who do not see pay as the issue, and point to the fact that they went into the field because they love children, not for the pay.
This brings me back to my early days in the field when I started working with my local Worthy Wage campaign, and people would say to me that if I really loved children I wouldn't ask for more pay and others said they didn't want anyone to think that they were just in it for the money. And that is the greatest fear of some of those in the field- that if they ask for a living (or, God forbid, a professional) wage they will be viewed as being selfish. And no one wants to be seen as selfish so the field perpetuates a sense of martyrdom within itself by focusing on affordability at the expense of wages for the professionals who provide direct services to children.
And while it is absolutely essential that the people in this field love children does that mean that they should be martyrs who sacrifice their standard of living? And does relying on people who see themselves this way really meet the needs of children and their families? It is time for ECE to reflect on these issues within our programs and in the larger Early Learning community. This is not just an exercise in the hypothetical though, how ECE providers view themselves will determine how the rest of society sees the field and ultimately what the field evolves into.