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Human Ecology

Lawrence Bush
September 24, 2017

Uri Bronfenbrenner, who helped inspire and shape the Head Start early education program, died on this date in 2005 in Ithaca, New York, at the age of 88. He was a developmental psychologist at Cornell who founded the field of “human ecology,” combining the disciplines of psychology, sociology, and anthropology to investigate what is involved in “making human beings human” (the title of one of his influential books). In 1964 testimony to Congress, Bronfenbrenner urged that President Johnson’s War on Poverty be broadened to focus on children. His remarks earned him an invitation to the White House from Lady Bird Johnson, who asked him to serve on the planning committee that developed Head Start. More than twenty-two million children have participated in the program, which prepares them for school with educational, nutritional, health and social services.

“Witness the American ideal: the Self-Made Man. But there is no such person. If we can stand on our own two feet, it is because others have raised us up.” —Uri Bronfenbrenner

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.