Miles Ahead

[A repeat from September 3, 2015]  Donna and I were driving in Wisconsin with our 3-1/2 year old granddaughter.  We talked.  And talked. . . . .   There’ s a field of corn.” “There’s a field of wheat.” “Those are cherry trees.” “Look at the cows. They’re called Holsteins.”  Some terms we discussed in Spanish.  We went to a petting farm and fed the pigs and goats and cows. Learned about Texas longhorns, Brahma bulls, sunflowers, wells (complete with bucket), we counted bags of corn used to feed the goats and sheep, we looked at wild turkeys, discussed the purpose of silos, and . . . . . and on. And on.  All in one day. . . .

I pondered the fact that our granddaughter at age 3-1/2 is perhaps several miles ahead of disadvantaged kids — who do not have the “hands on” tutelage of parents, grandparents, caregivers and friends. I read an article that said that said that children from middle to upper socio-economic families will hear millions of words more than children born into poverty.  And this abbondanza of words forms a critical base for future learning, performance and advancement.   Add to this that children from middle and upper income families receive hundreds of thousands more affirmations of encouragement and fewer of discouragement (the reverse metric from welfare families).

Betty Hart and Todd Risley penned an incisive book on this vexing  situation:  The Early Catastrophe:  The 30 Million Word Gap by Age 3.   The number of words a child hears in the first few years of life is tied directly to educational achievement.  And is inversely proportional to problems a child may encounter later in life.  The big question is what do we do about it?    

Answers?

What are the answers to the conundrum posed in my prior post?  Poverty and educational inequality.  How about if we start with not tearing down (and demonizing) middle or upper income folks as some in our government viciously promote.
How about providing education on varied levels – family dynamic; health; nutrition; learning; reading; interacting; socialization; drug or substance rehab as needed; etc.   Opportunity for everyone should be mandatory (though outcome cannot be guaranteed).   More charter schools; more vouchers; more magnet schools; more tutors and mentors; etc.   Unions are destructive to education and should be forced out of the way.  Let’s not spend more money (Chicago spends more on primary and secondary school education per capita than any other city and yet has among the worst results).    Let’s spend the money wisely.  

There is, however, a pivotal question:  how do you encourage welfare families to get on board?   How do you encourage family involvement in education which is so very crucial to a child’s learning process?  Would it be unreasonable to mandate some quid pro quo  You want welfare?   Then attend neighborhood classes.  You will be involved in your children’s education.   Learn about nutrition.  If you’re pregnant, you don’t take drugs. Or smoke.    And you get prenatal counseling.  And your children will get private tutoring. Mentoring.  Opportunity.

Is it unreasonable to have at least some expectation that in exchange for welfare, people ought receive some inspiration and education for getting off welfare.   And for stimulating their children with the opportunity that all of us want to give them.  The problem is many of our politicians insist that welfare recipients are “victims.”  And they want to keep the poor – poor – by bribing them with money to get votes.  Result – According to the U.S. Census Bureau, poverty rates are rising.   Wouldn’t it be a higher moral objective if we strive to make these people and their children productive members of society.   Where am I going wrong here?

Miles Ahead

Donna and I were driving in Wisconsin with our 3-1/2 year old granddaughter.
There’ s a field of corn.” “There’s a field of wheat.” “Those are cherry trees.” “Look at the cows. They’re called Holsteins.”  Some terms we discussed in Spanish.  We went to a petting farm and fed the pigs and goats and cows. Learned about Texas longhorns, Brahma bulls, sunflowers, wells (complete with bucket), we counted bags of corn used to feed the goats and sheep, we looked at wild turkeys, discussed the purpose of silos, and . . . . . and on. And on.

I pondered the fact that our granddaughter at age 3-1/2 is perhaps several miles ahead of disadvantaged kids — who do not have the “hands on” tutelage of parents, grandparents, caregivers and friends. I read an article that said that said that children from higher socio-economic families will hear millions of words more than children born into welfare families.  And this abbondanza of words forms a critical base for future learning, performance and advancement.   Add to this that children from upper income and working class families receive hundreds of thousands more affirmations of encouragement and fewer of discouragement (the reverse metric from welfare families).

Betty Hart and Todd Risley penned an incisive book on this troublesome situation:  The Early Catastrophe:  The 30 Million Word Gap by Age 3.   The big question is what do we do about it?