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A new lecture series this semester will aim to educate both its fellows and the general public about childhood development social policy in the United States, program directors said.
Yale’s Edward Zigler Center in Child Development and Social Policy will sponsor the series, whose first lecture, titled “The Future of Mothering,” will take place this Friday in William L. Harkness Hall, said Walter Gilliam, the director of the Zigler Center.
“The main purpose of the center is to encourage dialogue around policies that impact early childhood development … to raise awareness of factors that influence child well-being,” said Christian Connell, a former fellow of the Zigler Center and a psychology professor who is scheduled to lecture this semester.
Each year, the Zigler Center sponsors a series of lectures analyzing the interplay between current research in child development and federal and state policy, Connell said.
“What we do is take very idealistic people who want to go out there and change the world and teach them the … skills necessary to use that information to ultimately change systems,” Gilliam said.
The center intends for the lectures to be a means to both educate the fellows in the program and to educate the general public, Gilliam said.
“[The lecturers] talk about how good science can be used for federal policy,” Gilliam said. “And they don’t just talk about policy, but they talk about the decision-making process that goes into the policy.”
The topics of the lectures evolve each year to address current issues. The center’s fellows, who include more than 50 graduate, undergraduate and post-doctoral students, suggest many of the issues they might find interesting, said Sandra Bishop-Josef, the center’s assistant director. This semester, topics range from “The Media’s Role in Protecting Children” to “Longitudinal Studies of Prenatal Cocaine Exposure” and “Single Mothers and the American Dream.”
“We try to be relevant,” Bishop-Josef said. “The motherhood lecture came up in response to the Louise Story [article].”
Story ’03 SOM ’06 wrote a September article in The New York Times on Ivy League women and motherhood that sparked a campus-wide debate on work and family.
Bishop-Josef said the center hopes to inform policy-makers about the benefits of early education tools such as universal pre-kindergarten and about the use of play in early childhood development curricula. The center also established the Head Start Research Unit in 1995 to analyze Head Start — an organization that focuses on early childhood development — and similar programs.
Connell said he thinks the center’s lecture series addresses a wide range of topics, though a considerable part of it focuses on education and childcare.
Connell said child abuse issues also factor into the center’s concerns. His lecture will use state data of child abuse and neglect in foster care cases in order to examine the child welfare system, he said.
Though the center is a nonpartisan organization that takes no official stance on the issues it examines, many of the program fellows go on to government work, Bishop-Josef said. Others continue to work in academics or in other programs examining childhood development.