It goes without saying that early childhood education is one of the most important pre-cursors to a successful future overall education outcome. Far too many children are not prepared to attend kindergarten and they never catch up. In a state such as Louisiana the failure to catch up in education can be identified as the main reason that we have so much poverty and social ills.
In the context of popular discourse, the term early childhood education becomes somewhat muddled. To most in the media and in the public the term means a state funded arm of generally public education. This common definition is incorrect as private school based early childhood education is also an element. However, the more important, though widely ignored, aspect of early childhood education is what a very young child is exposed to and absorbs in the home.
In effect we live in state in which we are trapped in a societal vortex of low expectation and low educational achievement that is multiplied and magnified year over year, generation over generation. Because of education failures and failures of leadership, we have become a state of poor government outcomes, yet growing government dependency. A state in which big government and high social costs absorb large amounts of our budget that should be going toward to building universal prosperity by spending on the foundations of high paid jobs. Instead, because we refuse address our bad fundamental policies of government, we continue to pour scarce resources to prop up poorly educated, low performing citizens.
It would be easy to just shift the blame of the low level of preparation of our children onto a lack of state spending for school-based education. In fact, as the basis for the constant demand for more spending, that is what we hear from the education establishment all the time. But this problem is far deeper than just spending levels for school-based learning. Let us look at a couple of drivers that cause so many, so much misery.
As alluded to, we are trapped in downward spiral of poorly educated people having babies though they themselves being ill prepared for parenthood and for providing even the most fundamental education foundation. We know that vast numbers of poor children are born to broken families, or worse, into no family structure at all. The numbers of children born into or living in non-nuclear family structures are staggering, in Louisiana about 47% of all children are in broken families, about 73% of black children and 43% of all children are born to single mothers.
We should not be surprised then that the lack of family-based communication and discipline would lead to stunted education preparation. We should not be surprised then that when children are born into circumstances in which the parent or parents are themselves under-educated, the children fail to achieve foundational proficiency. Even when the traditional family structure exists, children from families in which education is not a priority or from which parents are un- or under-educated start far behind their peers from families that are educated and prioritize discipline in education. Under-educated parents trying to raise children without themselves being prepared for the 21st century is perhaps the most virulent cause of our downward spiral.
A wholly separate, but not necessarily unrelated, issue is that of childcare and associated education structures resulting from parents that must work to provide for the family. In this circumstance the burden of education preparation must by its nature be deferred to the childcare provider. I note that this is a wholly separate issue, but obviously the circumstances of a child being raised in a family in which the education level is low applies in this circumstance as well. The significance of childcare associated with education is that the outside driver, economic need, amplifies the nature of the problem.
Two circumstances, each requiring intervention in some fashion. From the aspect of policy, it would be easy just to provide funding for a blanket government approach. But in effect this is exactly what has created our problems in the first place. We have simply allowed generations of children to languish in schools that did not provide them with the tools that they need. And we salved our intentions with ever growing funding unlinked to success. The result today is a state full of people who are not qualified for the 21st century, and worse not qualified to prepare the next generation even to enter their education process.
To my thinking there are two primary faults with our society that have led to such mayhem. First, for a century or so we have allowed Progressive social policies to slowly erode the American family structure, shifting the responsibilities that had been the duty of the family onto growing government intervention. Progressive elites have studied and researched society and have decided that they know better than the multiples of millennia of natural selection through which nature, not man, determined that what we knew as the traditional family structure was the best structure for a successful society.
Once Progressive policies took hold, we slavishly allowed the education establishment to assume the role of education policy and execution with little or no ramifications for failure. Our politicians chose to pour billions into a failed system without the need of high expectations, accountability, or the passion of parents.
And why, by these actions, did we allow our own future to get away from us? Well perhaps we trusted the wrong people, or worse we fell victim to the “not in my backyard” syndrome. If our children did well, we viewed a generation suffering systemic failure as just someone else’s problem. Sure, we will pay a bit more in taxes, but just do not bother us. Since we were led by those who believed in Progressive think and fed the pablum of propaganda by a willing media there was no room for traditional values.
And now we have awakened to the raw fact that a century of Progressive policy failure is our problem. We live in a state that is not competitive in the world market, so prosperity for all of us lies elsewhere. For so many of us who chose to just let government substitute for the family structure and for the desperate need for good statewide education results, we face the loss of our own children as they seek their futures elsewhere. For those of us who live in proximity to our major cities, the decline is palpable and the crime and poverty growing in them, knows no arbitrary political boundaries. And the reality of a liberal democracy is that societal ills have only one fundamental solution, education; but that solution remains elusive as the cities become ever more crowded with the results of the cycle of the under-educated and are controlled by leaders who pander to voters rather than lead.
As a conservative I am repulsed to watch generations of my fellow citizens relegated to a dead-end future by much ballyhooed Progressive policies, policies that have shattered the foundational structure of families in exchange for overarching government dependency. One clear marker of the fallacy of such Progressive liberalism is that rot of so many of our major cities. It is a rot resulting from addiction to big government, an addiction whose cure requires political courage to implement strong leadership starting with no excuse for failure in educational outcomes.
If we are ever to end the cycle of poverty driven by the cycle of poor education, we must from the top sensationalize and apply the concept of tough love. We cannot accept the leadership of the education establishment. We cannot pour evermore money into addictive social programs with no strong connection to results in education. We cannot place our trust in Progressive leadership who cynically maintains its own power by holding back the weakest of our citizens. We cannot simply ignore the tragedy of uneducated fellow citizens because it does not affect us. It does.
I despise the conundrum that we are forced to choose between poverty and funding more support for the very fundamental reasons that poverty is a problem. I despise that our major urban areas are decaying before our eyes and the only alternative we are offered is to pour more and more money into failed education systems that only succor the education establishment itself.
Yes, early childhood education is critical. But we must remember that what we are seeing is the result of the Progressive model of substitution of government for the family. What we are being asked, with little alternative, is not to cure the vector that causes poverty, but to only treat the symptoms of it. In this case that treatment is to insert more government for what we traditionally expected of families.
This is not an easy problem to address. But ignoring it will not make it go away. If we continue allowing Progressive “experts” to convince us of the impossibility of correcting the root causes of poverty, especially the under-educated, root causes that their peers fomented, then we are doomed to having no real alternatives. And by having no real alternatives we assure that poverty and ignorance continue to eat away at our cities and at our country.