Ensuring our children’s future
If children are our future—and of course they are—then we must ensure they grow to be productive members of society and capable of becoming the educated workforce of a global economy. Seventy-five percent of brain growth and 85% of intellect, personality and social skills develop before a child reaches the age of 5. If children are not well nourished, do not have access to quality early childhood care, and if their parents are not guided in ways to be supportive, it can have a profound impact on their ability to be contributing members of society.
In 1995, I played a role in founding a family-school-community-government collaborative, Rockland 21C. Its mission continues to be the optimal development of every child through a comprehensive support system, the recognition that every adult is responsible for every child and the dedication of community resources to our common aspirations.
Thanks to research and proven programs we know how to ensure healthy development. But children can’t wait while government leaders argue over funding priorities. They keep growing! We know the importance of quality early childhood programs, of vocabulary development, of after-school programs, of education in the arts and music. These are not frills—they are facts.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said “research increasingly has shown the benefits of early childhood education … to provide the lifelong acquisition of skills for both individuals and the economy as a whole. The payoffs … are especially high.”
Think of it: the ability to compete in the global economy depends upon the earliest education and support to infants and children. This is surely an investment in economic development. We can pay now to produce an educated citizenry—or we pay later for jails and anti-social behavior.
Each and every day, I wonder if we have done enough. Do our children have the support they need to learn and to grow? Will they get enough exercise and eat healthy foods? Will the schools and local agencies have the resources to provide enrichment and after-school activities?
I’m the daughter of an accountant, and while I always seek annual balanced budgets, my bottom line is longer term—about developing human capital, and giving people the tools to discover the cure for cancer and to invent the next great thing. It does take a village, and we are all a part of that village.
As Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
Harriet Cornell is Chairwoman of the Rockland County Legislature. She represents Legislative District 10, encompassing the Villages of Nyack and Upper Nyack, Central Nyack and parts of West Nyack and New City.