David L. Kirp has proposed 5 big ideas for transforming children's lives and America's future. He correctly states that there is nothing definitive about these 5 ideas but that they constitute a set of building blocks to provide a solid system of supports from cradle to college. In fact, the author says that, if the reader thinks about what kids need and deserve, he will have accomplished what he hoped to do by writing this book.
The book describes the kids-first agenda in 6 well-written chapters, one for each of the 5 ideas and a summation on the politics of implementation. Chapter 1 starts with the concept of providing strong support for new parents, giving them the tools to become effective teachers for their kids from birth. This initial effort is then followed in chapter 2 with providing high-quality early education for their kids. In the third chapter, it is recommended that children move into schools that are closely linked with the community, thus improving opportunities for learning by paying attention to physical, emotional, and intellectual needs. Dr Kirp then moves on to discuss the importance of adding a caring, stable, and friendly adult to the child's life. This “big friend” needs to do what it takes to build social capital, helping prepare the child for college or a good job and a responsible, care-for-others life. The final, fifth step calls for providing a universal piggy bank for each child, giving them the nest egg to move on successfully to higher education and into the job market. This is the level-playing-field component of the overall agenda. The final chapter of the book chronicles the smart politics of rescuing the American dream by investing and implementing the 5 ideas in the kids-first agenda.