The interesting and informative commentary by Betty Massey (“Moody Center making a difference for island children,” The Daily News, July 14) indicates how the country has changed about education over the past 54 years, i.e., the time of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society campaign.

Stan Salett, civil rights organizer, national education policy adviser and creator of the Upward Bound Program, is also credited with initiating the Head Start program, the forerunner of the changes in the philosophy that children need to receive early education before entering kindergarten.

Salett’s approach was controversial and unique. He began Head Start in 1965 as an eight-week summer program, getting Dr. Robert Cooke, a pediatrician, and Edward Zigler, a professor and director of the Yale Child Study Center, to develop a comprehensive child develop program intended to help communities reach pre-kindergarten children.

In 1966, the program they had created was authorized by Congress as a year-round program. Unknown to most Americans in 1968, Head Start begun funding a television series, which would eventually be called “Sesame Street.”

The Head Start’s philosophy is often children who come from families whose parent or parents have two jobs, or jobs which don’t pay a living wage, take all their “free time” trying to make ends meet. They don’t have the time to give their toddler the protective, academic and social needs for that offspring to begin school.

This brings us to today and the commentary Massey so expertly explained as to what’s been happening in Galveston. She explained quite well what an interest the city has taken to ensure something is done in Galveston to ensure all children will be prepared to enter kindergarten.

She provided readers with statistics that are startling and alarming, regarding the number of words a child from a low-income family hears versus the words a child from a middle-income family will hear by the time they are 3 years of age (30 million).

This should concern anyone who hears it; it could mean, as a country, we’re not utilizing the one commodity we have to ensure that we become the people and country we expect to be.

The Galveston County Community Council, aka Coastal Counties Community Council, has operated a Head Start since 1966 and runs two centers serving 403 children in Galveston County. Of those, 213 are served on Galveston Island.

Head Start began in 1966 in Galveston, as well as around the country. The philosophy that’s employed by the proponents of today’s early school programs is the same philosophy that was employed by the creators of Head Start some five decades ago. I see this as a good thing.

It’s obvious that the city of Galveston, as well as the Galveston philanthropic community general (the Permanent Endowment Fund of Moody First united Methodist Church has aided the Head Start program to the degree there would not be Head Start without its assistance) has been aided by the support of the various philanthropy organizations, but has welcomed the energy and enthusiasm put forth by the Galveston Independent School District.

There’s work to be done, and I will begin to enumerate some of those things within my next commentary regarding The Great Society campaign, which used the Office of Economic Opportunity as the background to initiate more of the programs we will discuss later.

Melvin Williams is the executive director of Galveston County Community Action Council.


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