Sunday, September 10, 2006
investing in human futures
To: David Brooks, New York Times, re: " Investing in Human Futures"
What's going to make parents really better parents? I'll vote for raising the child tax credit if it'll facilitate the engaged parenting that Unequal Childhoods addressed (which you discussed March 9, 2006). What ensures that consumerist adults will use the tax cut to buy time with their kids, if they're not constructively engaged with their kids already in the time they have? (This isn't a presumptuous question, since chronic learning difficulties are usually related to home life.) Again, what's going to make parents really better parents?
What are those "many cultural ways to strengthen marriage"? Is it unemployment that's ruining 50% of marriages? No, the single males who are failing school, then failing to strive to make a reliable place for themselves in the labor market aren't going to put their miniscule extended earned income tax credit into self-directed job development that makes them better marriage material (and besides, what's that got to do with marriages lasting?). The problem here goes back to the family-school background of the low income employee (and the family background of the marriage partners?), which entails need for strong home-school partnerships for the sake of children, which can also address the issue of engaged parenting, given the quality of schools and teaching that can afford to develop and sustain such relationships. Put those government funds that would be lost via tax credits into more well-designed and accountable educational reform (more on this below).
What's a savings account at birth going to do to address the problems at the childhood level that inhibit so-called "human capital" formation? If the family-school relationship worked better, the savings account wouldn't be needed later in life. You certainly don't want to make the funds available to the weak (and consumerist) family during their child's childhood. So, what's the point?
Three cheers for quality preschool. Let's have a "Manhatten Project" that results in universal childcare, universal child access to health care, and universal preschool. Take those funds that would be lost to progressive government via new tax credits and apply that money to those universals instead!
About learning styles: Teacher education programs are already very sensitive to this. The problem is drawing talent into teacher education programs and keeping talented teachers in the profession. Bad classrooms don't result from what schools of education try to do, but from localities lacking the tax base to attract talented persons into the profession and, when they do get good talent, to keep it in their districts. Then, from good teaching comes good educational leadership, and from that come good school districts.
David, you are not "hinting at an agenda that is...economically progressive." Cutting the mortgage interest deduction for the wealthy is not going to do anything constructive unless the extra funds are directed to community-based human development, i.e., the items indicated above. But, reforming the savings and health insurance tax incentives can be socially progressive, when linked to higher teacher pay, home-school partnership, child access to healthcare, to good child care, and to good preschool. Also, we need more critical journalism that counters the consumerism which has for decades undermined those "many cultural ways to strengthen marriage," whatever that is.
Gary E. Davis
-- 10:06 PM