Depressing fact of the day


Today, I’m dedicating this blog to any tidbit that is characterized by a member of the mainstream media or blogosphere as something that “won’t get a lot of attention during this election.”

Let’s start with education policy.

From David Brooks’ NYT column today:

Heckman points out that big gaps in educational attainment are present at age 5. Some children are bathed in an atmosphere that promotes human capital development and, increasingly, more are not. By 5, it is possible to predict, with depressing accuracy, who will complete high school and college and who won’t.

I’m as liberal as they come which means I’m all about more money for education.  Build more schools!  Make sure they have awesome chemistry, biology and physics labs!  Provide plenty of art and music education!  Use the money that’s already going to the Pentagon to build the schools.  When it comes to the choice between guns and butter, I’m Land-O-Lakes all the way.

That said, I can’t help but think that there are a ton of things that individual parents can be doing for their children before they reach the age of 5 to prepare them for a lifetime love of learning and education.  The poor decisions made by literally millions of underskilled parents is costing all of us.

The liberal side of me wants to believe that there are supports that the government can be providing in the form of quality pre-school education and child care.  There are policies and supports that can be given so that working couples can balance their work and child raising responsibilities without the threat of losing their jobs.  Heck, there may even be ways to offer fund at-home nannies or child care workers to come to the aid of young mothers and fathers who previously would have either been able to sustain a family on one income or had help from grandmothers and grandfathers.

Ultimately though, better decisions are going to have to be made by folks who probably aren’t ready for parenthood.  I’m 32 and happily married.  We’re both college educated.  We both have decently paying jobs.  But I know I’m not ready to raise a child and the last thing in the world I want is to do such a bad job at it that my child ends up at age 5 with all of the traits that point to failure in school and work.  I can’t even keep the cat from jumping up on to the kitchen counter!  That’s not to say that I’ll never be ready.  I’m just not ready yet.

Hopefully more people will take a long hard look at their own parental skill level.

What does this have to do with the presidential race?  Let’s take a look at what Matthew Yglesias and others call the “Brooks-o-meter” to see how the representative, non-wack-job conservative judges the candidates on the issue of the educational gap:

Third, it’s worth noting that both sides of this debate exist within the Democratic Party. The G.O.P. is largely irrelevant. If you look at Barack Obama’s education proposals — especially his emphasis on early childhood — you see that they flow naturally and persuasively from this research. (It probably helps that Obama and Heckman are nearly neighbors in Chicago). McCain’s policies seem largely oblivious to these findings. There’s some vague talk about school choice, but Republicans are inept when talking about human capital policies.

Five years old.  That’s it folks.  You get five years to make a productive human out of your child.  From there, we can hope that our government has done the job with their education.


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