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The Raising of America – Signature Hour (58 mins.)

The U.S. is the wealthiest, most powerful country in the world. So why has our child well-being fallen to 26th? An alarming number of American children are following low developmental trajectories from the start. They enter adulthood with learning challenges and mental and physical health difficulties. But population health is not all that’s at risk, researchers argue. By under-investing in early childhood we are also under-developing America.

When Childcare for All Wasn’t Just a Fairy Tale
(32 min)
Imagine how things might be different if all America’s children had access to high-quality early care and education… They almost did.

Back in 1971, a bi-partisan Congress passed a bill providing high-quality, universal childcare, home visiting and other services from birth to age five to every family that wanted it. But it was vetoed by President Nixon at the 11th hour. The veto statement, written by a young White House speech writer, Patrick Buchanan, was the first time ‘family values’ were invoked to undermine families. The veto marked a seminal inflection point from our path towards a more inclusive society to today’s fend-for-yourself nation. We came achingly close to securing high quality childcare for all once. What has the nation learned during the intervening decades?

A growing number of economists are worried about our investments in early childhood. Not because we’re spending too much but because we’re spending too little where it matters most. Nobel laureate economist James Heckman, former Federal Reserve vice president Arthur Rolnick and others walk viewers through the Perry Preschool, Abecedarian and other classic studies which showed how investing in high-quality early care and education yields huge individual and social benefits, and even pays for itself many times over. Are we willing to invest for success today – or resigned to paying more for failure tomorrow?

WOUNDED PLACES: Confronting Childhood PTSD in America’s Shell-Shocked Cities (42 min)

Combat vets and survivors of wars and natural disasters aren’t the only people susceptible to PTSD. Too many of our children, especially children of color living in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty, show the effects of unrelenting structural racism, street violence, domestic instability and other adversities every day. And their symptoms look a lot like post-traumatic stress disorder. Remarkable kids from Philadelphia and Oakland, along with community organizers  are helping blaze a new path. They begin by asking not, “What’s wrong with you?” but rather “What happened to you?” and, “How can traumatized children and neighborhoods heal?”

DNA IS NOT DESTINY: How the Outside Gets Under the Skin (37 min)

Fetal and early childhood experiences and environments – chemical, family, socio-economic – literally become part of us. But how?

In DNA is Not Destiny McGill University’s Michael Meaney and other scientists walk viewers through some of the classic experiments which revealed how disadvantage and adverse experiences, especially during gestation and the early years, can get under the skin by altering the molecular ‘volume controls’ or ‘dimmer switches’ called the epigenome which help regulate gene expression. Our genes don’t change. But since the epigenome “listens” and responds to the environment, scientists are concluding that improved social conditions can actually provide the biological foundations for lives that are healthier and more likely to thrive. And that’s good news.

The Raising of America series is distributed by the California Newsreel. More information about the series can be found at