WASHINGTON, DC – From the emergence of the Islamic State to Russian expansionism and China’s rise, there is no shortage of national-security challenges facing the United States. But, as a new report – Worthy Work, STILL Unlivable Wages – demonstrates, nothing poses a more potent threat to America’s future than the failure to provide adequate care and education to children under the age of five.
If young children do not receive high-quality care from educated professionals who understand how to stimulate and shape brain development, the next generation of Americans will suffer from an ever-widening achievement gap relative to their counterparts in other advanced countries and emerging competitors. Yet Americans pay these trained professionals the same wages paid to those who park our cars, walk our dogs, flip our burgers, and mix our drinks. The implication is clear: American children require no more nuanced attention than animals or inanimate objects.
This is a grave error. Early childhood care can shape a person’s lifelong capacity for learning, emotional resilience, confidence, and independence. In fact, providing high-quality care that engages and instructs children in their first five years of life has a greater impact on their development than any other intervention over the course of their lifetime.
This is not new information. The book Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development, published more than a decade ago by the National Academy of Sciences, begins by acknowledging that, from conception to the first day of kindergarten, the pace of development exceeds “that of any subsequent stage of life.” That development “is shaped by a dynamic and continuous interaction between biology and experience.”