Sunday, March 13, 2005

Perhaps you're not aware that you're a Marxist--well, in at least three respects. In 1848 Das Capital shocked folks by advocating abolition of child labor, a progressive income tax, and free public education. The Right Wing in this country is still? again? opposing the shocking, sensible idea of public education.
As with their opposition to others of our institutions, their real aims are disguised, they claim only to want reform. But the voucher system they push would, if widely used, eventually dismantle public schools, especially in poor neighborhoods. Another prong of the attack is "No Child Left Behind", an Orwellian term meaning "We'll punish schools that can't meet this underfunded mandate."
Consider, in contrast, the "Success by Six" program that Howard Dean instituted when he was governor of Vermont. Aware that students who come to school prepared to learn will learn, he launched early immunization, hearing tests and lead poisoning testing, programs to prevent sex abuse, to prevent teenage pregnancies and early education efforts. Statistical analysis of the effects of these programs showed impressive progress.
Missourians are less fortunate. We have Matt Blunt and Peter Kinder. In response to their proposed slashing of educational programs in the city, St. Louis Police chief, Joe Mokwa, wrote in the Post-Dispatch:
Quality pre-kindergarten programs, such as Head Start, and quality child care help kids learn to get along with others, follow directions and start school ready to succeed. One landmark study showed that excluding at-risk kids from a pre-kindergarten program multiplied by five times the risk that they would grow up to be arrested five or more times by age 27. In another study, boys left out of a quality after-school program--the "prime time for juvenile crime" is 3-6 p.m.--had six times more criminal convictions compared to those in the program.
We can pay for education or we can pay for crime. Our choice. But spending our resources to buy more prison cells means wasted lives. Bitter young men who could have contributed will do nothing more than provide employment for prison guards.
More tomorrow on education.

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