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PBS Launches Online Documentary on Early-Childhood Education

"The Raising of America," a documentary TV special about early care and education in this country, launched online on Monday. It has been showing on public TV stations across the country since Oct. 9, and both TV broadcasts and live screenings will continue into 2016.

The documentary, produced by filmmakers Larry Adelman and Christine Herbes-Sommers, explores why America ranks 26th among the 29 richest nations in childhood well-being. One in four American children are born into poverty, and 70 percent of children live in families with two working parents, according to the opening scenes of the documentary trailer. The trailer uses those two statistics to make the point that we ignore the care and education provided for parents and young children at our own peril.

"The lobbying power of the next generation is next to nil, and as a consequence our society steadily and relentlessly underinvests in kids," says Robert Dugger, a managing partner at The Hanover Investment Group, a hedge fund, about halfway through the 11-minute trailer.

The film touches on brain science, political history, business priorities, social policy, international comparisons, and pretty much every other factor that you can imagine might somehow be related to the story of what we do, and don't, provide for the care of young children. And if the topic you're looking for isn't addressed in the main documentary, there are four "companion episodes," which can also be viewed online that dive even deeper into the issues. (Or you can just check out this much more detailed post by my colleague Mark Walsh, on our Education and the Media blog.)

Take this statistic, for example: Forty percent of all American mothers are working within three months of their child's birth. How does that affect babies' brains? How does it affect women? What about the companies they work for? Expect each of those questions to be explored, if not answered, in this comprehensive documentary.

The project has been in the works for a while. I first spoke with the filmmakers, who are based in California, back in 2013 when I was covering early education for EdSource Today, a California-based education news non-profit. (Education news non-profits are kind of a thing with me.)

Anyway, the documentary can be viewed in full online at www.raisingofamerica.org. Or, you can probably find a time to watch it on your local PBS station.

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