Corporations have been allowed to assume, without public dialogue or debate, a growing influence over children’s play, thoughts, and values, an influence which is, for the most part, a negative one. Those who market to children do not base their decisions on the well-being of children but on the well-being of their profits. And if violence sells, then they provide it, no matter what the costs are to children and society, no matter how much the values they push conflict with those of families.
Nancy Carlsson-Paige is a professor of early childhood education at Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts where she has trained teachers for more than thirty years and was a founder of the University's Center for Peaceable Schools.
Since the mid-1980's, she has written and spoken extensively about the impact that violence and representations of violence in the media have on children's lives. Her research shows that violence effects children´s social development, the ways in which they learn skills that promote caring relationships, and their ability to engage in positive conflict resolution.
Her books that include Who's Calling Shots?: How to Respond Effectively to Children's Fascination with War Play and War Toys and Taking Back Childhood: A Proven Roadmap for Raising Confident, Creative, Compassionate Kids, outline practices designed to promote children's well being and encourage skills that advance peace and nonviolence.
Carlsson-Paige grew up in a small town outside of Albany, New York, where she spent much of her childhood playing outdoors and in nature. She has written of "wonderful memories of playing with neighborhood kids and also of being alone in nature—floating sticks down a stream, sitting in a forest of pine trees, and picking berries, ...climbing trees and playing in a treehouse." Nancy and her sister were called home from their wanders by the clang of cow bell. Their parents parked a shabby old couch in the living room that was just for Nancy and her sister to jump on.
Though the small town in which she grew up was conventional, her parents were not. Her father was an educator and both parents were progressive for their time. Their home was artistic, messy and creative. Where many ´50s suburban parents were concerned with fitting in, Nancy´s were not. She and her sister were encouraged to follow their interests.
Dr. Carlsson-Paige has written that Howard Zinn was the most significant teacher in her life. She moved next door to Zinn and his wife Roz when she was in her late 20's and beginning to formulate her political views. Zinn, whose ideas, political philosophy, and morality resonated with her, became Carlsson-Paige´s mentor. For more than three decades he would be a friend and guide as she committed her professional life to creative child development, social justice and peace.
In a June 2011 speech given by Dr. Carlsson-Paige she won the Embracing the Legacy Award from the Robert F. Kennedy Children's Action Corps, she said,
"Teachers cannot thrive in punitive environments where they are measured, compared, and threatened. Children can't learn in these environments either — at least they can't learn in the ways I have taught teachers to understand learning for my whole career. You can drill kids and get their test scores up. You can take away recess and field trips, the arts and activity based learning to make time for more test prep. But real learning is not rote learning. Real learning is thinking in original ways, knowing how to apply ideas, growing morally as well as intellectually."
Dr. Carlsson-Paige and Dr. Diane Levin co-authored an article entitled "One Size Doesn't Fit All" for the April 18, 2010 edition of The Boston Globe. In it they asserted,
"We won't make genuine progress in closing the achievement gap in our nation's schools until we address the underlying inequities that are its root cause. Imposing more standards and tests is a misplaced, misleading, even harmful approach. If these standards are imposed, we will see a continuing achievement gap and new levels of stress and failure among young children. Worst of all, we will have missed an opportunity to give our nation's children the best possible education, the one they deserve and the one our future depends on."