In the New York Times on July 23, 2012, Laura Klein posted a very provacactive and strong op-ed piece on the failures of special education programs in NYC.

While I absolutely agree with Ms. Klein, I have some additional thoughts I want to share.

Our current K-12 education model was really conceived around an agrarian society and has not been updated (in New York State) since 1907, or so.

Many changes have occurred in our economy and society since then, with accelerated change beginning in the 1960’s.

Today, even in “traditional” 2-parent households, it is quite unusual to find only one parent in the workforce, and that poses a challenge where the K-12 model is 8 AM to 3 PM, and the workplace model is 8 AM to 5 PM.

Now, factor in the growing number of single parent households in America.

If we look back to 1965, we find that about 10 percent of American children lived in single parent households.

In 2011, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) conducted an exhaustive study looking at changes in family structure in 27 industrialized countries.

That OECD study found that in the U.S., about 26% of children were being raised by a single parent, compared with an average of 15% across the other countries.

More telling: 72% of African-American children today grow up in a single parent household.

In the larger picture, females constitute about 83% of the total number of single parents, and single fathers around 17%, and years of evidence tell us that – although the wage gap has narrowed over time – today’s women earn 77.4 cents for every dollar earned by men.

Extensive research in child development over the past several decades has confirmed that the early years (birth to age 8) form the foundation for a full range of human competencies and are the time when young people are most receptive to the effects of both positive and negative experiences.

Researchers have identified several risk factors which – when present – predict adverse outcomes for children, and when absent (or carefully mitigated) can reduce or eliminate the long-term probability of negative outcomes for children, which include reduced economic success and lower quality of life in adulthood.

The single most predictive risk factor is poverty, which is often accompanied by limited parental education achievement; parental mental health problems; social isolation or neglect; and living in an environment where crime and violence regularly occurs.

Two widely-cited intervention programs, the Perry Preschool Program and the Abecedarian Program, used randomized child assignment and long-term follow up to study the effects of early interventions on social behaviors of severely disadvantaged children.

In both the Perry and Abecedarian Programs, there was a consistent pattern of successful outcomes for the children in the program compared with control group members.

Participants in the more intense Abecedarian Program had an increase in IQ which persisted into adulthood. This early and continued increase in IQ is important because IQ is a strong predictor of socio-economic success.

Effects of these interventions also reflected a wide range of positive social behaviors, including higher scores on achievement tests; achieving higher levels of education; the need for less special education intervention; placement into higher wage jobs; more likely to own a home; and less likely to go on welfare or be incarcerated (when compared to individuals from the control groups).

Many studies have shown that these aspects of behavior translate directly or indirectly into high economic returns.

One economist (Heckman) has estimated the rate of return (the return per dollar of cost) to the Perry Program is in excess of 17%, which is clearly higher than long-term returns on stock market equity and suggests that society at large can benefit substantially from these kinds of interventions.

It is my contention that investing in high-quality early education programs which are both reflective of the economic realities of today (read: 7 AM to 7 PM) and fully articulated with public schools and the expectations of kindergarten readiness will rapidly change the paradigm noted in Ms. Klein’s essay, and will also create a long term benefit to the U.S. economy.

If we continue to push children along through the K-12 system ill-prepared for future workforce opportunities, we will continue to wring our hands and despair that jobs are moving overseas.

In early July 2012, our national unemployment number came in at 8.2%, yet there were some 3 Million private sector jobs open and unfilled.

Why?

Jobs are open and unfilled for a number of reasons, often related to labor mobility and/or experience and training. A poorly educated individual is just not a good candidate to help bolster our domestic economy, and that is a tragic waste of our limited resources.

If even some of the research on the importance and economic return for investing in quality early childhood education is true, then why aren’t we demanding that our public school systems re-engineer themselves to address our 21st century economy?

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There seems to be an increasing interest in Gov. Romney around his expertise and general views on war and the military.

Preface my comments from one who has never served in the Armed Services and one who was adamantly opposed to the War in Vietnam:

As the Vietnam War raged in the 1960s, Mitt Romney received a deferment from the draft as a Mormon “minister of religion” for the duration of his missionary work in France, which lasted two and a half years.

Before and after his missionary deferment, Romney also received nearly three years of deferments for his academic studies. When his deferments ended and he became eligible for military service in 1970, he drew a high number in the annual lottery that determined which young men were drafted. His high number ensured he was not drafted into the military.

If Mitt Romney avoided service because he was against the Vietnam War, fine.

However, he says he wants a Hawkish foreign policy that will involve the lives of many young Americans. How about any of his 5 sons joining up for service? Not so far.

Mr. Romney has expressed appreciation for the country’s “volunteer army” and said “that’s the way we’re going to keep it. He explained his sons had made different career choices in life and had not chosen to serve in the military but he mentioned a niece whose husband he said had just been called up by the National Guard.

As many from my generation have pointed out: Mitt Romney is a Chicken Hawk and is not fit to be President. If elected, Mitt Romney would be a Coward in Chief President and he would cause irreparable damage to our country.

Elected Officials

July 10, 2012

Back in 1776, our founding fathers felt that it was a good idea to have elected officials represent their constituents to do “the work of the people”.

There have been a number of transformational changes which have occurred over the last 236 years in our society, our economy and in technology.

Yet, we have not really stopped for a strategic planning session to see if our Federal (State & Local) governments are structured to meet the demands and needs of our current global society.

Is anyone else thinking that it might be time for some re-engineering in how our public sector is configured to give us optimum results at the most reasonable cost?

US Unemployment

July 8, 2012

There are so many ‘experts’ weighing in on the US unemployment rate, I find it’s increasingly hard to find thoughtful and objective opinions.

I feel that our domestic economy is doing pretty well, and that the White House has been more or less on-point, given the limitations imposed by folks like John Boehner and Eric Cantor.

The unemployment numbers released on July 6 painted a dismal picture to some, yet the facts reveal that some jobs have been created in the private sector each month since President Obama took office.

There are 2 issues no one seems to focus on. (1) Gross over-employment in the public sector, and (2) the 3+ million private sector job openings that are currently open and unfilled.

Jobs are open and unfilled for a number of reasons, often related to labor mobility and/or experience and training. (For example, a skilled manufacturing job in Raliegh would not be a good fit for a high school dropout living in Buffalo.)

Unemployment trends from April 2008 (@ 5%) to October 2009 (@ 10%), reflect that it took just 18 months for unemployment to double.

Who should we blame for that?

Since late 2009, we’ve seen a gentle but persistent upward trend in the overall employment rate, and during that time period the elusive cluster of unfilled job openings has grown steadily from around 2.6 million in 2009 to around 3.2 million today.

Following the release of June 2012 employment numbers, Governor Romney was heard to say this from the helm of his yacht on Lake Winnipesaukee, “The president’s policies have not gotten America working again, and the president is going to have to stand up and take responsibility for it.”

It is this sort of bad behavior that creates enough of a distraction to shield the real issues from the people.

A lot of blather with no constructive suggestions on how to move forward in a positive fashion, and a seeming unwillingness to look critically at the whole story.

This is very sad coming from a fellow who purports to be a leader.