While Americans are spending great sums building schools and supporting education in Afghanistan (to rebuild a different nation), our own schools are being dismantled, educators pilloried, and students cast into the exploding world of technology & change without the basic tools to make a productive life.

Our teachers are denigrated by politicians for their failure to fix under-resourced schools filled with at risk children from poor and often troubled families.

The problems facing educators are many and complicated but must be addressed if we are to stop this nations slide to the bottom.

More than a few U.S. states already look like Afghanistan when comparing the health and well being statistics of their children.

The rest of the industrialized world understands that education is the engine that drives society. Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and the 23 other industrialized nations treat children, daycare, & early childhood programs as important parts of their societies. We don’t.

These wise nations know that children need skills to function as contributing citizens while America (in a growing number of states) spend more on prisons than schools, lack affordable daycare and early childhood programs, and sell Ritalin, Prozac, and Zoloft to children instead of providing healthcare.

Subsidized daycare has thousands on waiting lists in Minnesota (I was forced to take children from a working father only because he could not afford daycare when I was an active volunteer guardian ad-Litem).

Daycare workers in the U.S. are paid about as much as food service workers (the lowest paid profession in the nation). American daycare is underfunded, under-trained, and misunderstood.

The high school I attended is now a decrepit old building with fewer extra curricular activities, larger classes and fewer choices. Teaching is not the attractive profession it was when I graduated from college and thought seriously about being an educator.

To politicize the education of children (our future citizens) is the very definition of how to insure the destruction of a democratic society.

As Pliny said 2500 years ago; “What we do to our children, they will do to society”

Below is the Early Childhood Education Manifesto created by David Strand, a KARA board member. Please read it and send it to your State Legislators and Governor. Children have no lobby; we are it.

Support KARA’s effort to stop punishing children; sponsor a conversation in your community (invite me to speak at your conference) / Buy our book or donate

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Preschool education for kids can save America billions

David Strand

Preschool education for kids can save America billions

I serve on the board of a new foundation called KARA, short for kids at risk action. Its goal is to build awareness and promote effective people and programs that can prevent the loss of so many of our children who are falling through society’s cracks. One such program is early childhood education. Following is what we call The Early Childhood Education Manifesto.

Education is the engine of progress and prosperity. No nation can achieve its potential for greatness without investing in its human capital. The extent to which children successfully negotiate the treacherous passage to adulthood depends on the earliest years of brain and emotional development. That explains why early childhood education is crucial to society.

America’s current de facto public policy regarding at-risk children is an economic and moral failure. In essence it can be characterized as follows:

“We reject community investment programs (implemented today by nearly all developed countries) that stress preventing the creation of at-risk children. Instead we assume colossal costs of corrective measures that mostly fail regardless of how earnestly they are pursued.”

The results of this undocumented policy are many:

1. A child is a work-in-process toward citizenship. A successful citizen adds $5 million of economic value to society in his/her life. If unsuccessful, that person instead costs society several million dollars in expenses. Therefore, the lost opportunity value between a success and a failure is somewhere between $5 and $10 million per child.

2. Young children are humiliated when they read below grade level. A wealthy society that rejects proven programs to avoid the humiliation of children is an immoral society.

3. Children who read by the third grade are seldom ever involved with the criminal justice system. Four of five incarcerated juvenile offenders read two years or more below grade, and a majority are functionally illiterate.

4. America has 2.3 million prison inmates, one in four of the world’s inmates and ten times the rates of most European countries. Another five million Americans are involved in the criminal justice system for probation, parole, or supervision, all unproductive activities.

5. Several states forecast needed prison growth based on third grade reading scores. Our federal prisons are operating at 130% of capacity.

6. No industrial nation equals the United States in neglecting the basic needs of working families with children.

7. Minnesota’s under funded policy to assist low-income families for out of home child care has a waiting list of over 7000 families. This is a sham, not real policy.

When America isn’t fair, it doesn’t work. America is cheating its children.

High quality, universally eligible early childhood education and development similar to that now in place for decades elsewhere would solve the above problems. According to Minneapolis Federal Reserve researchers, no public sector investment of taxpayer money yields the high returns verified for early childhood education.

What are we waiting for?

Footnote: Supporting documentation for the Manifesto is available for those who are interested.

1 Comment

  1. Very well said, Michael. What people need to understand is that our economic system is the driving force behind all policy decisions at the governmental level in this country. Our government is as extreme in its implementation of capitalism as Soviet Russia was extreme in its implementation of its economic system of socialism. Most other developed countries are more balanced in their economic systems seeking ways to take the best of both systems to make it work for their citizens. They are looking out for their citizens as a whole while trying to ensure individual freedoms. Whereas, here in the States it’s all about the individual first and the citizenry sometimes.

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