While political commentary leading up to the election has largely focused on the economy, some Americans are realizing that other issues might be just as important. Senators Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) and Robert Casey (D-Penn.) recently commissioned a report on the overall well-being of American children.
Completed by the Save the Children and First Focus organizations, the report was meant to be a comprehensive reading on American children based on five main categories. America’s Report Card 2012: Children in the U.S. graded the status of American children based on economic security, early childhood, K-12 education, permanency and stability, and health and safety. These five categories were respectively assigned grades of D, C-, C-, D and C+, respectively. Needless to say, our overall average, a C-, is not much to brag about.
Part of the reason America’s C- average is so concerning is because people overlook the grade as a problem. Some, like Senators Dodd and Casey, are starting to worry that because the presidential candidates are not asked about developmental education, it will never be a central focus of either candidate’s political agenda once he takes office.
Meanwhile, American children are suffering. The significance of the C- average means a few things in particular. First of all, American children living in poverty will be developing more slowly and be 18 months intellectually behind their age level by the time they are four years old. Furthermore, grade-level reading skills will slip, thus ensuring that a strong elementary education is further out of these children’s grasp.
Understandably, all of these issues in early education will lead to more school dropouts and a higher likelihood that American children born into poverty will never live above the poverty line. In other words, our D grades on economic security and permanence and stability of children will not change anytime soon.
With this in mind, it seems reasonable that American elementary education should be a main talking point of presidential agendas. But the sad truth is that it is not a priority. It is becoming more and more obvious that attempts to resolve these problems will be futile unless direct investment in early education becomes a significant concern.
It may appear a large economic burden, but studies show that direct investment could actually increase America’s GDP by 2 trillion dollars within one generation. Clearly, it’s time for Americans to aim their focus toward more than just the economy, as elementary education will determine the next generation’s lives and thus, the country’s success. Or failure.