The Poehler Lecture on March 7, 2017 was titled “So, How Are the Children?” and was given by Dr. Barbara Schoenbeck. Dr. Schoenbeck taught at Concordia from 1978 to 2005 and is now a Professor Emerita of Education. The lecture focused on the developmental and educational well-being of children in the United States. The Maasai people, one of the most accomplished in Kenya and Tanzania, greet one another by asking, “So, how are the children?” The traditional response is, “All the children are well.” Dr. Schoenbeck explained that in the Maasai culture the children’s needs are most important because the well-being of the children reflects the well-being of the whole village. We were challenged with this question as citizens of the Unites States and asked to consider if we could give the same answer as the Maasai people. Dr. Schoenbeck described the five stages of development that are essential to children’s well-being: physical, intellectual, social, emotional, and spiritual and moral. The lecture specifically focused on intellectual development, and we were presented with many shocking statistics about literacy rates in the United States. Dr. Schoenbeck also stressed the importance of interaction with people and free-play to the development of children. If any aspect of these developmental stages is missing from a child’s life, it can have long-term effect. The lecture was concluded with the reminder that all children are precious gifts from God and the challenge to consider what are we, as children of God, can do for the children.
When Dr. Schoenbeck was speaking about literacy in the United States, she included some surprising statistics about those in prison. Fourteen percent of those in juvenile detention are illiterate, and seventy percent of those in prison cannot read above a fourth-grade level. This relates to Honors as we have been learning about the marginalized. We have learned about many of the challenges those released from prison face as they try to get housing, jobs, and any number of things to survive. I can only imagine how much harder this process would be if one only had the ability to read at a fourth-grade level. It is just another way those released from prison are prevented from integrating back into society and creating lives for themselves.
The Poehler lecture was focused on the development of children and especially their intellectual development. Some might assume that because of the subject, the lecture did not apply to anyone other than teachers or future teachers. However, Dr. Schoenbeck also stressed how important the family is to all types of development as well. Simply reading stories to children, interacting with them, and touching them enormously impact children’s development. The family is also one of the most impactful for spiritual and moral development. We all interact with children in some capacity on a regular basis, and as someone hoping to be a mother someday, this lecture was both interesting and informational.