The New York Times published an editorial today, detailing a new report released by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, examining the disciplinary practices of our country’s 97,000 public schools. Giving up on 4-Year Olds is the ultimate indictment of a so-called civilized society. In truth, critical analysis of public policy suggests we are already giving up on vulnerable families. Punishing their children is but the next illogical and inhumane step in ignoring essential, well known, repeatedly documentable facts about early childhood development.
Babies require consistent, responsive, empathic caregivers; family environments free from toxic stress; and appropriate nutrition. Without these essentials, disturbed brain architecture sets up lives destined for pathologies in learning, in relationships, and in emotional and physical health consequences that can endure a lifetime. We can expect to see problems emerging well before pre-K.
If we do not utilize resources to support the health and well-being of our most disadvantaged through evidence-based multi-system interventions, we might as well be fitting these 4 year old in little orange jump suits for early incarceration. As a society, we may have a choice, but we will pay either way.