Thursday, December 18, 2008

Global cooperation needed to redress systemic threats

A while back I posted excerpts from an article about how complex interconnected systems tend to collapse quite rapidly. Here's some more thoughts from Jeffrey Sachs:

We will also have to remember that our risks go far beyond finance, and the fixes we need go far beyond financial policies. The interactions of the economy and the physical environment are similarly tightly coupled. The reckless gambles the world took on the recent financial bubble are dwarfed by the long-term gambles we have been taking by our failure to address the interconnected crises of water, energy, poverty, food, and climate change. The financial crisis should quickly and urgently open our eyes to these much greater systemic threats and the global cooperation needed to redress them.

I suspect that many world leaders are far more cognizant of this than most US national political leaders, ESPECIALLY the republicans. I'm hopeful President Obama "gets it." Don't expect the MSM to get it. And don't expect the corporate owners of MSM to get it either. Far easier to take the short term point of view that its all about the power to control who the money goes to. Expect the rich to get richer. Expect the poor, to get poorer. Expect a whole lot of conflict. Expect things to get hotter.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Window of opportunity never greater than in the first five years of a child's life

This must read article appeared in Commercial Appeal dot com - Memphis online. The author, Bobbi Lussier, is executive director of the Office of Early Learning in the Tennessee Department of Education.

A child's early experiences establish the framework for his or her cognitive and social development by creating the architecture of the brain, which in turn builds a child's capacity to learn. The rapid development of children during their first five years emphasizes the critical importance of high-quality early educational experiences.

Research tells us the window of opportunity to develop particular skills such as language, social-emotional development, music and logic concepts will never be greater than during the first five years of a child's life, the period in which a child's brain grows most rapidly and reaches its peak of activity. If such skills are not developed during this time, they may never develop to their full potential.

As a child's first teachers, parents need support in their efforts to provide experiential opportunities for their children. The most significant obstacle that prevents parents from providing such opportunities is poverty. In 1995, researchers reported that by age 3, middle-class children had working vocabularies almost twice the size of those of children from low socioeconomic families. Research also showed that lower socioeconomic children begin school 18 months to two years behind their more advantaged peers, and this disparity widens each year without effective intervention. Pre-kindergarten programs have been proven to close this gap.

Research shows that children who attend a high-quality preschool or pre-kindergarten experience greater social and academic success in kindergarten, throughout subsequent grade levels and in life outside the classroom.

The cornerstones of this body of research are found in three major studies that have shown both short- and long-term positive effects of preschool and early learning on cognitive, social, emotional and economic development. The High/Scope Perry Preschool study in Ypsilanti, Mich., the Chicago Child-Parent Centers study and the Abecedarian Study in Chapel Hill, N.C., identified children at risk for school failure and collected data through adolescence and adulthood. The preschool programs in each study were considered high quality, adequately supported financially and professionally administered.

All three studies found strong evidence of social, educational and economic effects on the participants...

Such findings show there are many benefits for children who attend high-quality prekindergarten programs. These benefits include increased graduation rates, less need for special education, less grade repetition, less involvement in crime and greater employment opportunities and increased wages as adults.

President elect Obama has stressed the importance of early education. Hopefully he will make good on his promises in this field.

When "lower socioeconomic children begin school 18 months to two years behind their more advantaged peers, and this disparity widens each year without effective intervention" it is not at all surprising to find that urban children of poverty in fourth grade reading at levels three years behind their grade. To compound the problem, what kinds of reading materials are available for students who are reading, on average, three years below grade level?