Breaking the Back of Poverty and Under Achievement

Early childhood education is the bromide for the cycle of poverty and its companion of under achievement. So says every educator and a Nobel Prize winning economist. Still, some elected officials resist funding universal access to early childhood education. Doing so fuels the cycle of poverty that is the Achilles heel of modern civilization.

The pursuit of “fool’s gold” results in expensive supports for remediation, safety nets, and a permanent underclass because we fail to do what we know works. Developing a rigorous, robust education from infancy to third grade is the elixir for the great divide that haunts our society. All other education reforms are pissing in the wind.

Clearly, early development of children is fundamental to the growth of individuals and civil society. Investments in effective teaching, the alignment of teaching and learning, and the provision of wrap around services for children from infancy to the third grade yield returns that exceed expectations.

Notably, innovations in early childhood education are flourishing. Creating whole schools devoted to the education of young children is one such innovation. Administrative departments for early childhood education are another innovation that recognizes the importance of early development.

The explosion of age appropriate content resident on mobile devices is more evidence that the knowledge exists to educate young children out of the bowels of poverty. And, the research is voluminous, compelling, and not assailable.

The naysayers argue that the gains from early learning are lost by third grade. Others resist creating a thirteenth grade for public education—a given reality for the rich. Both the argument and resistance are bogus. It is possible to align and sustain the gains of early childhood education and you either pay for a thirteenth grade for young children or pay later for the ravages of under developed citizens living in poverty.

Failure to do what we know how to do is a poison pill that tarnishes our democracy and is a moral dereliction of duty. The strategy for breaking the back of poverty and under achievement resides in our willingness to educate from Pre-Kindergarten through the 12th grade. Not doing so while aspiring to economic growth is delusional.

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