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Empowerment and Education: Civil Rights, Expert-Advocates, and Parent Politics in Head Start, 1964Ė1980


by Josh Kagan ó 2002

Much has been written about Head Start in the form of evaluations of the programís effectiveness, but little unbiased work about the programís politics has emerged. This essay asks how Head Start has survived and even thrived over thirty-five years when other Great Society programs have died. To answer this question, it explores the coalition that emerged between civil rights activists, intellectuals studying child development and social programs for children, and community action embodied in Great Society legislation. The essay traces the development of Head Start out of the emerging academic interest in "compensatory education for cultural depravation" and the New Left's desire to build a movement focused on civil rights and community action. These two groups, united in their support for Head Start and for broader reform of public education, fought over its treatment of parents of children enrolled in the program. However, neither side could correctly predict how parents actually experienced Head Start or how parents helped to ensure Head Start's political survival.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 104 Number 3, 2002, p. 516-562
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 10847, Date Accessed: 12/15/2017 10:36:36 PM

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About the Author
  • Josh Kagan
    Jumpstart for Young Children/Yale University
    E-mail Author
    JOSH KAGAN is a student at the New York University School of Law, where he is the Women, Children & Families Scholar in the Root-Tilden-Kern Public Interest Law program. Following his interest in education policy, especially early childhood education policy, and twentieth century American political and social history, he wrote this essay as his senior thesis in history at Yale College. As a student at Yale, he worked for Jumpstart, an AmeriCorps program that recruits college students to mentor children who are struggling in their Head Start classrooms. As a Jumpstart Corps Member, he taught children in New Haven, Connecticut, for three years, before joining Jumpstartís staff, helping to manage Jumpstart programs in New Haven and Syracuse before working on Jumpstartís National Program Team at its national office in Boston, Massachusetts. He also has worked at the National Organization for Womenís National Action Center in Washington, D.C., focusing on child care and early childhood education public policy.
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