Child Development

Posted on January 28, 2008

You can't take politics out of education, admits James P. Comer (bio), but you can make changes to those policies that will be helpful to children.


We try to keep good relationships with all the policymakers, school board members, legislators, at every level. That takes a lot of time. So that on the one hand you’re trying to implement programs, you’re looking at the implications of your findings and then moving to policymakers to help inform them and structure and come up with ideas for policy changes that will allow them to structure changes that will be helpful to children.

That’s difficult, but it must be done. I have to sometimes, and earlier in my career I said, “We should take politics out of education.” But you can’t take politics out of education, but you have to recognize it as a force that can be modified and adjusted. But it takes time, and we keep looking for ways and structures that will allow political leaders and decision-makers to make changes in policies that will make a difference.

If it was up to me, I would focus first on the preparation of teachers and administrators and help them think about how child and adolescent development has to be the spine of education and that everything else grows off of that spine. All your academic learning goes off of that, and that when children are developing well, they’ll learn. That’s the idea you have to try to get over to policymakers.

What happens is that many of the policymakers come from backgrounds where they received good support for their development, and they make the assumption that their achievement is due to their intelligence and their will and ignore the fact that they received sound development.

If we want all children to perform well, then those children who are not receiving support for development, adequate support, for whatever reason, will have to receive it somewhere. The only place they can receive it in our society right now is the school.

You've got to get policymakers to understand that, and they’ve got to create some kind of mechanism that will allow all teachers and administrators to acquire that kind of understanding. It’s a challenge to the research community, one, to be able to think about what kind of mechanism will do that but, two, to get policymakers, decision makers, to understand it and to implement it.

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Excerpted from interview with researcher in September 2007.


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