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All Children Are All Our Children


Doug Selwyn

What would schools and communities look like if the health and well-being of all our children were our highest priorities? More important than test scores, profits, or real estate values? What actions would we take if we wanted to guarantee that all our children were growing up with what they needed to be healthy, happy, and successful—and not just some of them?

The United States was once among the healthiest countries in the world. As of now, it is ranked no better than twenty-ninth. Those who bear the brunt of our worsening health are the poor, people of color, and, most of all, our children. All Children Are All Our Children situates our ongoing health crisis within the larger picture of inequality and the complex interplay of systems in the U.S. based on class, privilege, racism, sexism, and the ongoing tension between the ideals of democracy and the realities of corporate capitalism. Public education is caught in the middle of those tensions.

All Children Are All Our Children begins by defining what we mean by health, looking at the many factors that support or undermine it, and then identifies steps that can be taken locally in our schools and in our communities that can support the health and well-being of our young people and their families, even as we work towards necessary change at the state and national policy level.

“Doug Selwyn has taught K–12 in diverse settings, as well as teachers at the university level. This book demonstrates a level of critical thinking that is missing from what is taught in our schools. He is the caring kind of teacher you want for your children and all our children. Power and politics, especially corporate capitalism, stand at the root of the problem in our dysfunctional education system, which reflects our failing society. Children appear to be the enemy and schools the prisons. Selwyn looks upstream at root causes of the problems. He speaks truth about power and presents steps towards a solution. We can deschool society and bring in student-centered learning as other nations have done. This requires that we get to know our students and their home situations. Working on the challenges he presents will make us healthy and wiser.” —Stephen Bezruchka, Senior Lecturer of Health Services and Senior Lecturer of Global Health at the University of Washington

“Doug Selwyn’s All Children Are All Our Children offers insightful perspective on the current health of children and the public education system in the United States. This easy-to-read book provides historical perspective and offers advice to educators, parents, and lawmakers on how to put children's health at the center of the conversation. I found this book to be approachable and inspiring. Selwyn’s words reinforced to me the importance of establishing a classroom community on the values that I most want to instill in students: compassion, open-mindedness, perseverance, respect, and a sense of well-being. Building strong relationships between teachers, students, and families supports diverse and healthy young minds. High-stakes testing and corporate wealth have prevented a generation of students from thriving in school, and we as a society need to confront this issue head-on. This book asks parents, teachers, and lawmakers to take a close look at our ethics and to start beginning our conversations with the question, ‘how are the children?’” —Anna Marchefka, Teacher in Greenfield Public Schools

“Doug Selwyn takes a wide-angle view of the U.S. educational system, allowing the reader to see how many variables in our imperfect society impact our students’ education, health, and happiness. He poses the uncomfortable question of whether we truly care for all our children and pushes us to reflect on our own compliance, lack of action, and even ignorance of the big picture. As a former student of Dr. Selwyn and now a classroom teacher, I am familiar with that nudge into the uncomfortable that inevitably pushes me to action. His conclusion is a hopeful one: if our communities have the power to erode our educational system, those same communities have the assets to work together and begin the difficult and necessary work of change.” —Diane Dame, Teacher in Saranac Central School District

“Accessibly written with sharp-as-nails political analysis, in All Children Are All Our Children, long-time teacher and education activist Doug Selwyn indicts the inhumanity of corporate education reform while righteously arguing that healthy schools start with healthy communities and healthy kids. If you are interested in understanding how to really fix our schools, read this book.” —Wayne Au, Professor in the School of Educational Studies at the University of Washington Bothell and editor & author at Rethinking Schools

“At a moment when corporate reformers continue to demand test-based hyper-accountability in our public schools, Doug Selwyn reminds us of the broad economic, health, and environmental realities that stress students and communities. He argues persuasively that we must first attend to the well-being of students and communities and gives specific suggestions for action.” —Barbara Madeloni, former president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association

“In All Children Are All Our Children, Doug Selwyn asks us ‘What would it look like if we decided that the health and well-being of our children was our number one priority?’ The answer is our schools and education system, indeed our entire society, would be transformed. In the tradition of John Holt and Herbert Kohl, Selwyn draws on his five decades of teaching experience, conversations with students, parents, health care professionals, social workers, and educators, and a deep dive into the research literature as he constructs a devastating portrait of the well-being of American children. But this book is not about despair; rather Selwyn fashions hope for children, schools, and society with the message that the only education for social change is action to bring about that change, and he offers us multiple pathways to follow as we, step-by-step, transform ourselves and our society into one that makes the health and well-being of all children our first priority.” —E. Wayne Ross, Professor of Education at the University of British Columbia

“‘What is honored in a country shall be cultivated there.’ The wisdom of Plato is laid bare by Doug Selwyn as he tackles the intersections and complexities between what we say as a society and what we do. Our myth of rugged individualism, that ‘success’ is solely based on what one can accomplish on one’s own, permeates a societal attitude toward children and, by extension, parents and educators. Rather than acknowledging child-rearing and education as a collective responsibility, parents and teachers must work in the best interests of children against policies that hinder health, well-being, and happiness. Selwyn unmasks the gaps between rhetoric, meritocratic beliefs, and policies to help us see more clearly what it is we cultivate, so we may envision and actualize the society all our children deserve.” —Rosalie Romano, author of Forging an Educative Community and Hungry Minds in Hard Times

“As a 4th grade teacher for 13 years, my colleagues and I often feel isolated and overwhelmed trying to mitigate all the challenges students face that impact their well-being, which obviously impacts their success in school as well. I am so grateful for this book that highlights with empowering clarity the context within which our schools and students are situated. An unfortunate reality is that far too many educators and parents have given up trying to understand or change the determinants of our students’ health and well-being that exist beyond the classroom (environmental, economic, cultural factors), but Doug Selwyn reminds us what is obvious and common sense: education does not exist in a vacuum. Ignoring the context beyond the classroom is not an option for the long-term well-being and success of our students—and ultimately our society. I am invigorated to organize and resist against the test-crazed, one-size-fits-all approach to schooling and fight for what matters most to us: a healthy community that honors our relationships and supports the common good.” —Marian Wagner, Teacher in Seattle Public Schools