Opinion

Reihan Salam

Universal preschool may help parents more than children — and that’s okay

By Reihan Salam
January 3, 2014

As a small child, I vaguely recall having attended a Montessori preschool in Brooklyn, which was loud, lively and colorful. One day, a classmate made a reference to his “parents,” an English word with which I, an imperfectly bilingual 3-year-old, was unfamiliar, and he explained that he was referring to his mother and father, words that I did understand. And so my vocabulary grew, in fits and starts. Pretty soon, I started attending kindergarten at a public elementary school, where I talked my way out of chores like putting away my things in my cubbyhole by protesting with a convincingly exasperated “but I’m only 4 years old.” Though that doesn’t sound like much of an excuse to my wizened old ears three decades later, it seems to have worked at the time.

But for all I may or may not have learned about the importance of cubbyhole management, the main virtue of early childhood education, from my family’s perspective, is that it allowed both of my parents to work. For most of my childhood, my mother and father worked two jobs while fulfilling other obligations (taking classes to complete a graduate degree in my mother’s case, studying for a licensing exam in my father’s), leaving my two older, but not that much older, sisters to pick me up from school and help me with my homework, among many other things. I find it difficult to believe that my life will ever be as sweet as it was in those years, when nothing was more exciting than tagging along as my father ferried my mother to her Saturday job in Staten Island. Change the equation even slightly — say I had only one older sister instead of two, and she wasn’t as capable as my real-world siblings, or if one of my parents had become seriously ill — and it is easy to imagine our harried but happy little world unraveling.

Which leads me to the debate over universal early education. Bill de Blasio, the new mayor of New York City, has pledged to provide full-day pre-K for all 4-year-olds in the five boroughs, and in last year’s State of the Union address, President Obama backed a similarly ambitious “Preschool for All” initiative. The problem with these efforts is that they promise too much about what preschool can do for children’s skills while glossing over what it can do for the earning potential of parents.

It is easy to see why the mayor and the president, among many others, find the idea of universal early education so appealing. A number of scholars, led by the University of Chicago economist James Heckman, have emphasized the crucial importance of building skills in small children, as “skills beget skills.” That is, if children acquire important social, emotional and cognitive skills early in life, they’re in a much better position to acquire new skills as they age. It is the social and emotional skills, like persistence and a willingness to cooperate with others, that might be the most important of all. Most children acquire these skills in the home, from parents and other close relatives. But some children, particularly those raised in single-parent and otherwise chaotic households, tend to have a much harder time, particularly boys. The promise of early childhood education is that it can mitigate this inequality between children raised in healthy and supportive environments and those who are not.

Yet as David J. Armor and Sonia Sousa argue in “The Dubious Promise of Universal Preschool,” the evidence drawn from almost five decades of the federal Head Start program suggests that this hope is largely misplaced. The Head Start program was designed to help low-income children catch up with their middle-income counterparts, yet a series of evaluations have found that while the program offers modest short-term gains, long-term gains are rare. Faced with these discouraging findings, advocates of early childhood education have maintained that Head Start is not a “high-quality” preschool program, as it doesn’t make use of a rigorous curriculum and well-trained personnel. Armor and Sousa counter that Head Start actually fares well on quality measures when compared to programs that have reputations for high quality, like the Abbot program in New Jersey and preschool programs in Boston, Massachusetts and Tulsa, Oklahoma, which received more favorable evaluations. Moreover, they suggest that the real difference between lackluster evaluations of Head Start and strongly positive evaluations of preschool programs in New Jersey, Boston, and Tulsa is that the former studies were well-designed while the latter studies were not.

Older programs that have attracted favorable attention — the 1960s era HighScope Perry Preschool program from Ypsilanti, Michigan, and the Chicago Child-Parent Center (CPC) program — combine preschool with labor-intensive family interventions, thus making them far more expensive than Head Start and the kind of programs backed by de Blasio and Obama. There are no guarantees that the positive long-term effects of these programs — which included higher employment rates, higher earnings and lower rates of arrest among former students — would be true among graduates of Head Start.

Rather than push ahead with a universal preschool initiative, Armor and Sousa recommend that the federal government launch a revenue-neutral national demonstration project, in which Head Start funds would be shifted to a series of new preschool programs in select school districts, which would then be rigorously evaluated. Given the fiscal constraints facing the federal government, this seems like a sensible way forward.

But one wonders if Armor and Sousa are missing the real promise of early education just as much as de Blasio and Obama. Instead of emphasizing the benefits of early education for children, perhaps we should focus on its benefits for parents, and specifically for working mothers, who bear a disproportionate share of the child care burden. And if we accept that early education is fundamentally about freeing working parents from child care duties, we might be able to craft a lower-cost, and more taxpayer-friendly, approach.

Conor P. Williams, a researcher at the New America Foundation, recently highlighted the impact of Quebec’s subsidized child care program in The Daily Beast. Between 1997, when the program was launched, and 2007, Williams observes that labor force participation among mothers of young children sharply increased while public assistance sharply decreased, reducing public expenditures and raising revenues by enough to cover 40 to 50 percent of the day care program’s costs. Williams also acknowledges that Quebec’s overall mix of welfare state policies is quite different from what you’ll find in the United States, and that the province was experiencing robust economic growth.

Nevertheless, the apparent success of the Quebec program shows us that even if preschool doesn’t give a huge boost to children’s skills, it could help their parents build a firmer economic foundation for their families — and give them the self-esteem and independence they need to serve as good role models. That is a cause that all voters who care about the dignity of work can get behind.

PHOTO: Four-year olds Ryan Htut (L) and Justin Hernandez play in a plastic cube at the Frederick, Maryland Head Start facility March 13, 2012. REUTERS/Gary Cameron 

Comments
37 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

“…Quebec’s subsidized child care program…Between 1997…and 2007…[the]…labor force participation among mothers of young children sharply increased while public assistance sharply decreased…enough to cover 40 to 50 percent of the…program’s costs.”

That is only possible where “young mothers” are ready and willing to accept jobs they are qualified to perform, and where such jobs are locally available in sufficient number. Extremely unlikely in much of rural or low-income neighborhoods in America.

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive
 

Can’t help but wonder if universal access to birth control might not eliminate the need for more expensive childcare later on.

Posted by euro-yank | Report as abusive
 

No, it’s NOT okay. Why should I pay for universal babysitting? It is NOT an educational tool, if it was, then raise school taxes for it. Oh, you can’t eh?

Posted by tmc | Report as abusive
 

How about Pre-Pre-School? Then people could work when the kid is 3. Then Pre-Pre-Pre-School for 2 year olds? Hell, just offer free babysitting after six weeks. We have plenty of other peoples money and lot of jobs available.

Posted by tmc | Report as abusive
 

We seem to be interested in money from all sorts of areas. Instead we should be looking at the children. Why must we follow Marxism and allow the state to control our children from birth? Why should they be allowed to brain wash children?
Also, I registered with Reuters and now you, Reuters, do not accept my log in unless you can investigate my personal opinions. What kind of bait and switch is this?

Posted by oldexperience | Report as abusive
 

From the Daily Mail 10-16-2009:

“The Cambridge Primary review – which was based on 28 surveys, 1,052 written submissions and 250 focus groups, said there was no evidence suggesting formal teaching styles benefited young children….However, the authors concluded that there were suggestions it could be harmful….Finland regularly tops the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) lists for reading literacy and science and is regarded as having Europe’s best education system. There, as in countries such as Germany and Sweden, children begin school in the year they turn seven, but start pre-school at six. In France, children begin lessons at six.”

so – yes, I agree, formal education as such is of no benefit to children under 6. They learn best by playing. However, the question about socializing and adjusting emotionally is harder to answer. There is strong evidence that children raised in complete, supportive families do best. Fair enough, but your call for early, and universal preschool raises another possibility.

Totalitarian regimes have always understood the value of separating the child from its parents early. In ancient Sparta, for instance, the child was raised by the state. Both Hitler and Stalin had “state theories of early education.” The purpose in these cases was different from your suggestion that early preschool confers “benefits on the parents, and specifically working mothers.” The purpose was indoctrination pure and simple.

Yours may not be an intentionally statist view, but there is a dark, Orwellian possibility that lurks in what you suggest. These are difficult times, particularly when the subject of central planning comes up.

Posted by billbradbrooke | Report as abusive
 

Bye Bye NYC. De Blasio will destroy NYC.

Posted by Bighammerman | Report as abusive
 

For this age, home and parents are key. Make time now so that you don’t lose your kids later.

Posted by Kaorisan | Report as abusive
 

It’s heartening to see De Blasio finally addressing another need such as Universal Preschool now that Universal Healthcare is underway.

Everything in America from healthcare, education, homeownership, and everything in between, should be free and accessible, with no one in need.

The rich will always be able to pay for it all as their gluttonous wealth must be confiscated and redistributed PROPERLY and FAIRLY to those who need and DESERVE it.

The revenue stream from the rich is endless and will never run out. This is what American expect. This is what Americans are entitled to have.

After all, it’s for the children.

Posted by FlamingLiberal | Report as abusive
 

Why not?

US schools are nothing more than a babysitting subsidy for most parents right now.

Those who can afford to do so (i.e. the wealthy class) have other options for our future leaders.

Posted by EconCassandra | Report as abusive
 

People who have no children should get the largest tax breaks and people who have children should pay additional taxes for each child they have in order to pay for this stuff.

Posted by Troy1963 | Report as abusive
 

@FlamingLiberal,

There was a time when your words would have been taken as deliciously tongue-in-cheek. Unfortunately, today an increasing number of so-called Americans actually believe the concepts you posted correct.

So don’t take it personally if I keep my distance…

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive
 

@Bighammerman
We can only hope you’re right. NYC is a cancer on the face of the earth.

Posted by JRTerrance | Report as abusive
 

I agree with the author. Nothing wrong with Universal Preschool, especially since it helps parents (especially single parents) get into the workforce and off Welfare. It’s hard to put a kid in pre-school for $250 a week when you only make $250 a week at minimum wage.

We also need to focus on the quality of education in the U.S. – from pre-school through high school.

Posted by JL4 | Report as abusive
 

This is pretty amazing – offering preschool to working families so they can work more effectively (ie have more opportunity) is now the mark of Hilterite ideology? Have those that think this way been to an average preschool? The kids just run around and play and learn about holidays (Hallowe’en, Christmas, etc) by making crappy crafts and singing songs. If that is too invasive for your taste, well better stay out of church.

Plus, no one said it would be mandatory, but rather an option. Since when do people with a massive hard-on for the free market absolutely hate having more and better options? If the govt were forcing Montessori type learning centers on everyone then I would have a problem with that, but giving kids a chance to play with other kids so parents have more/better chances to work sounds totally reasonable – probably pretty cheap too, since the extra revenue from more working teachers and parents would cover most of it.

Posted by CDN_Rebel | Report as abusive
 

@CDN_Rebel, since the money is not yours, of course it seems cheap. Taxing the wealthy to provide free daycare? Really? You don’t see a problem with that?

Posted by tmc | Report as abusive
 

@tmc, since when is it just “taxing the wealthy”? Everyone would be taxed, including the people who aren’t wealthy, but aren’t poor – like me. You prefer Welfare? Wouldn’t you rather give a single mother the opportunity to work full time and pay taxes, pay rent and buy food and clothing for her family than to support her and her children with your tax dollars?

I wish people would get off the false rhetoric that only the wealthy pay for these benefits. Interestingly, the tax structure is such that the wealthy pay for very little in this country, and the working class who outnumber the wealthy by the millions end up paying the lion’s share of taxes. The wealthy have tax shelters and tax breaks that most of us “middle class” don’t. Proportionate to income, I probably pay more taxes than Romney. Don’t try to convince me that they’re put upon.

The argument that only the wealthy pay for things is stale, not to mention false. Only the fringe left wing anarchist crazies believe that the wealthy should be brought down. But thinking that the poor should be given more opportunities doesn’t equate to bringing down the wealthy.

It’s rare for me to agree with this author 100%, but in this case I do. His reasoning is sound.

Posted by JL4 | Report as abusive
 

My God…Is this nation a playground for the greedy who retained their ability to grow their wealth or is America the hard working citizens who live here? Let us do something healthy for Main Street.

I never thought I’d see the day this nation gave such a low priority to investing in it’s children.

There is so much political corruption to debate higher up the food chain. How sad we aren’t united/disgusted enough to retain a higher focus.

Posted by SaveRMiddle | Report as abusive
 

I work in a school that has several all-day prekindergarten classes. Since we began them, replacing half-day prekindergarten a couple of years ago, it has become very clear that our students who complete all-day prekindergarten are much better prepared for kindergarten than those who have had no prekindergarten, or only half-day prekindergarten. The majority enter kindergarten already reading or at an advanced stage of reading readiness. They are ready to learn more, and faster, than those with less preparation.

This should be a good public policy option issue, and not a partisan dispute area. If government can afford this, it is very worthwhile. I say this as a former Democrat, who realized the error of his ways in the early 1980′s, once he had worked enough and paid enough taxes to realize that it is better all around to be a Republican.

Posted by ExDemocrat | Report as abusive
 

@JL4, de Blasio stated he would tax those over $500.000 to pay for it. That is taxing the wealthy. It will drive many of them out of NYC to neighboring communities so the middle class and poor will end up paying most of it anyway.
I am all for fair taxation and believe the upper 10% should pay considerably more that they do now. The tax systems need to be re-invented to eliminate all their escape holes.
Free day-care for all is a great dream but there are far, far more important things we need to do with our tax dollars. Do you remember that we are broke? NY State is loosing ground fast. People and business are moving out in droves. Cuomo knows this and is trying to fight it, but it’s a losing battle. Taxes are just simple to high in all areas. Free day care? Really? Where are your priorities?

Posted by tmc | Report as abusive
 

@ExDemocrat There are real, respected studies that show that enhancing pre-kindergarten has no affect on graduates. It is far better to invest the money in high school and college. I know I can dig up the links to them. Can you support your claim? I don’t think so. At least not with respected studies.
And obviously government CANNOT afford this. That’s why de Blasio wants to raise taxes again to get it.

Posted by tmc | Report as abusive
 

Studies show the educational advantage of pre-school disappears after 5th or 6th grade. whether a student did or did not attend a preschool has no affect on graduation rates or scores for High school and college. Those reports that try to do so do not account for affluence. Those that can afford to send their children to preschool are far more likely to spend on them later too with tutors and other affluencial means as documented in many studies.

Posted by tmc | Report as abusive
 

We had to take my son out kindergarten because he was so far advanced relative to the rest of the class he was bored and disruptive. This was not due to “government provided baby-sitting service” known as pre-school, this was because of parental involvement and socialization. This, as is the case with almost ever liberal agenda, is only another attempt to buy votes and hence power using other people’s money. Kids already get 13 years of a failed educational system, why force them to sit through even more?

Posted by gcf1965 | Report as abusive
 

@JL4 – “the tax structure is such that the wealthy pay for very little in this country, and the working class who outnumber the wealthy by the millions end up paying the lion’s share of taxes” You are so grossly misinformed (or an outright liar) that it is not even remotely funny. The wealthy pay for almost everything. If you look at the top 10% paid more than 70% of the federal taxes. Mitt Romney got beat up in the elections over his statement about the 47%, but only because the DNC jumped on it to make the facts look like hatred. Nearly half of the people in the nation pay no tax, and these are NOT the wealthy. Fair, if you want fair, then theree are a lot of poor and middle class that are going to get a rude awakening when they start paying their fair share instead of mooching from the other half.

Posted by gcf1965 | Report as abusive
 

@gcf1965 To be fair, the poor do also pay taxes. Just not Income tax. Neither did Romney, that’s what the democrats jumped on. Poor pay sales tax and all the other hidden taxes, and as a percentage of their income it is far more than those same taxes effect the wealthy. Of course Romney and his organizations may have paid a myriad of other taxes. So there are many sides to taxation and both parties just spew spin and rhetoric about it. No one know the actual truth about who pays what. The one thing we all do know is that our governments at all levels are going broke and taxation and spending must be reinvented to fix it.

Posted by tmc | Report as abusive
 

How many posting here paid zero taxes – no matter what your income? Anybody willing to be honest and say they’re poor enough to pay zero taxes? I am by no means wealthy. I’m closer to the “poor” side of income, although I don’t qualify for income poverty level. I pay income taxes, property taxes, ad valorem taxes, sales taxes. If I take out any of my investment money, it’s taxed. The few stocks I have? Those dividends get taxed. I get really irritated with people who say that half the U.S. population doesn’t pay taxes. That’s bullshit.

@gcf1965 – The wealthy pay for almost everything? Then tell me why I pay taxes. Why do YOU pay taxes? Are you wealthy?

I’ll ask again: Anyone posting here poor enough to pay zero taxes?

Posted by JL4 | Report as abusive
 

@JL4,

Get real. NO ONE pays zero taxes. The obvious thrust of your query is “how many here paid zero Income Tax. My wife an I live on our Social Security and a bit more. We have not paid income taxes for many years, most recently with just the standard deductions allowed.

You don’t seem to understand that if EVERY DOLLAR were confiscated from “the wealthy” in America it would run the country little more than a month. That wouldn’t make a difference of significance in the taxes YOU (and most others) must pay to support the explosive financial malignancy that is our federal government.

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive
 

According to some of you, half the country pays zero tax. I do understand that if all the wealth were confiscated from the wealthy, it would run the country for little more than a month – well, maybe two months. Where do you guys think the rest of that money running the country is coming from? The tooth fairy? The average American pays their fair share of taxes. That’s my point. So get over the “the wealthy pay for everything while half the country is sitting on their asses raking in the benefits” because that’s pure bullshit.

Posted by JL4 | Report as abusive
 

@OOTS, you were in your prime during the 50s and 60s – the middle and tail end of the “sweet spot” of the American economy. It was the “WASP male America” when a hard working American male earned a living, supported his family, got promoted, opened businesses (no Walmart to put you out of business then) and there was a “chicken in every pot.” Times have changed – you haven’t. You still think that all anyone has to do is what you did, and all will be well. You’re out of touch – like my retired father who pontificates from his armchair, but hasn’t worked in years, even though he could have, has never defended this country, and is living off the Social Security and Medicare, just two of the benefits against which he rails in anger. OOTS, you have a nice life that you EARNED. I get that. I’ve told you that before. Things have simply changed.

Posted by JL4 | Report as abusive
 

K-12 education costs about $10k / year in average in US, i.e. $130k for full 13 years, $260 for a husband and wife.

In expensive places like New York it costs much more. In “cheap” places – less. As a rule of thumb, for a spousal pair it costs somewhat more than a single family home in the respective location.

Who bears the costs? Obviously not the middle class.

For example, in our town K-12 education costs about $16k/year. The state subsidizes part of them, and town uses a creative accounting, but about $12k/year comes from property taxes collected by the town. A median property tax is about $6k/year, 50% of them, i.e. $3k/year being spent on K-12. It means that a typical middle class household must pay property taxes for 52 years to cover K-12 education of one kid. 104 years for two kids.

People who do not own houses but rent do not pay property taxes directly. Their landlords pay property taxes from rent collected, but apartments are assessed much lower than homes. Typically, 4 times lower ($50k vs. $200k).

Posted by yurakm | Report as abusive
 

I agree that the upper % pay the lions share of the taxes. And you are right when you say everyone pays SOME taxes, at least sales tax if nothing else. But.. many people live in states without state taxes, and get more back than they paid in through earned income credits. So if they get back a return which is more than they paid in- where did that money come from? It came from the rest of us. I am all for helping the children. I think we might be able to do that if we look into correcting the tax loopholes and taking away earned income credits, as well as investigating some of the other things we have been lax about.

Posted by ta97275 | Report as abusive
 

As a Republican voter in Florida, I support a proposal for universal child care, not just preschool/K-12. I don’t, however, support the minimum wage. Why not?

I got my first job in 1972 when I was 14. Mr. Mosely paid me $1/hour (less than the $1.60/hour Federally mandated minimum wage). Dad agreed with it and mentioned it was more than fair because I had few skills.

Subsequently I helped change oil and filters (Dad had already taught me this), and before the year was out ending up occasionally helping him and Will (his real helper) change spark plugs and points. Other things I did included wiping down tools and importantly, putting them away.

There were also the requisite people-skills to learn while pumping gas and washing windshields (my real responsibility because often they were busy on repair work). Plus, I learned about handling money, operating a cash register, and even learning how going the extra mile would sometimes garner a tip (and Will taught me the right way to say thank you, for same, which practically guaranteed the same person would always give me a tip (usually a dime but sometimes a quarter).

Of course, I also emptied trash and cleaned bathrooms (things my Mother had previously had trouble getting out of me consistently at home) and some would say this was, if not child abuse on his part, wrong because he didn’t pay me the minimum wage.

However, but if you think about it, I was the real winner in the bargain. First, I once saw Mr. Will’s paycheck. He earned $2.60/hour plus his tips. Second, while I was handy to have around, I was only there after school and on Saturdays. Moreover, I’m pretty sure he and Will (his real helper) didn’t actually ‘need’ me. Third, the arrangement not only got my foot in the door in the job market, but taught me responsibility (and helped keep me out of trouble).

That same year, I also got a paper route (with the Birmingham News). This meant I was a busy boy getting up at 4:30AM with my Dad (though years later Mom later told me 5AM had been his long time routine and he only began getting up earlier to have coffee and read the paper while ensuring I was on schedule). Anyway, back home by 6:30, I ate breakfast and got to school after which, I was at Mr. Mosely’s until 6PM (weekdays and 7:30AM-6PM Saturdays). I never worked Sundays (and don’t recall if they were even open).

The following year Mr. Mosely began paying me $1.60/hour. I didn’t actually know this was the minimum wage until I overheard my Mom and Dad conversing about it. Dad was commenting he was proud Mr. Mosely had judged me worth it.

Fast forward 40 odd years to last Saturday. My wife and I are in Wendy’s having a bowl of their excellent chile. We live in Orlando now, where minimum wage is higher than the Federal minimum. While there were grown women and men working that day, there was a help wanted sign. Things seemed hectic because they were short staffed after a commotion due to pimply faced young employee (teenager) making a scene and walking off the job because his friends had invited him to do something or other that afternoon.

I pondered how that kid was earning $9/hour and couldn’t help but wonder if Wendy’s was getting their money’s worth out of him. Somehow I doubt it because one thing was obvious, he didn’t have any sense of responsibility yet.

In 1996 dollars, when Mr. Mosely raised my pay to $1.60, it was equivalent to about $6/hour. That means he started me off at about $4/hour and spent (invested if you think about it) a year teaching me all the things, which made me worth the minimum wage. I’m glad I had the opportunity but somehow I can’t help but wonder if he would have taken the gamble on me if he’d had to pay me 40% more from the get go, e.g. the minimum wage right from the beginning.

Mr. Mosely and I (with my Dad’s acquiescence) made a deal for $1/hour and it was right nobody’s business, certainly not the Federal or State government’s business, to stick their nose into what was a private contract (nothing written, just a handshake and I was hired). I’ll go to my grave believing the minimum wage is wrong. Especially right now when jobs are scarce. Wouldn’t it be better for employers and employees to have the right to make their own decisions on what they were willing to do for a given amount of pay? As tings stand, instead of giving a kid a break and giving him an entry level job making $3 or perhaps $4/hour, the Fed and the State interfere with Draconian rules, regulations, and penalties by interfering in private contracts and the business cycle.

Too bad because some folks, kids as well as ne’er-do-wells, aren’t worth the minimum wage. Not until they prove themselves.

Posted by jbeech | Report as abusive
 

@JL4,

Wrong again, as usual. Late in 1950 I was ten years old. From early 1961 into early 1965 I was (enlisted) in the USAF serving at absurdly low wages. Hardly my “prime”, although subsequent GI benefits…home loan and access to VA medical services have been valuable subsequent assets I must attribute to those years’ compensation.

I have worked and advanced in multiple fields, largely because I did not want children and courted and married an incomparable life partner who, in good faith, has worked most of her life before stage four cancer ended her fundamental employability. Dual careers assured neither of us ever had to stick with a bad job or boss.

So, we “gave ourselves” an edge and have enjoyed a varied and wonderful life far beyond that possible for most who became parents in the same period. In America, perhaps even more that elsewhere, we can have anything we want…just not everything that we want.

In this NOTHING has changed. It’s just that today an increasing number taught they could “have it all” are angry and vocal when they discover they can”t. Welcome to real life.

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive
 

@OOTS, You’re about 72/73, right? You were born in approximately 1940/41? You enlisted at about 20, served for 4 years and came out about, when, 24/25-ish? You had your prime years in the late 60s and 70s – the tail end of the sweet spot. The 80s weren’t really that bad either. You were in your prime.

Posted by JL4 | Report as abusive
 

@JL4,

I really don’t understand your point. I’m not a steak.

A person’s “prime” as a fighter pilot in WW II was from 19-24. Someone plying professional sports may have a “prime” between 20 and 40. In the trades, most professions and university professors the “prime” is more like 35-55. What’s your point? Oh, and, for all practical purposes I retired in 1988; just dabbling since.

Only losers seriously believe that there is no opportunity at ANY time. The problem with most is that when opportunity knocks they don’t recognize it because, as jbeech points out above, opportunity often looks like WORK!

Tell me a single year since the 1930s when American malls have been less than jammed with ordinary people spending over the holidays and through most of the year. If the U.S. is so bad, you’re entirely free to try to do better elsewhere. I suggest you leave your whining here, though.

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive
 

@OOTS Been gone for a while but still appreciate the pragmatism (experience) you bring to this site. We don’t always agree, but the thoughts are rational, and most importantly, unemotional.

Like yourself, I embrace the concept of opportunity requiring hard work. I would also state it requires the confidence and skills to assume risk.

Where we have failed many (fortunately, not all) of our young people in that we have diminished the necessity of work–be it intellectual or pure manual labor. The concept promoted that one cannot be “successful” without a college degree is pure, unadulterated bunk, promoted by both the education establishment and the intellectual elitists (primarily on the coasts). A degree does not confer success on anyone–much like a job title does not confer competence (see inside the Beltway).

If one steps back and analyzes many of the posts, there is an underlying message that the world is not “fair”. But no one wants to discuss the decisions they have made through their lifetime that compromised their ability to achieve their perceived goal of success. I won’t leave LAX because their is a better job in Oklahoma. I did not apply myself in high school, so I was not prepared for college. I got pregnant or arrested at 16. The military would not take me because I am obese…ad infinitum.

But “fairness” is in the eye of the beholder, notwithstanding the fact that we, as a country, have pumped literally hundreds of billions of dollars into programs to help those that are “disadvantaged”. But, those programs on their best day are marginally, if at all, successful. (see Head Start).

So instead of rethinking what we are doing and where we deploy limited resources, we (a) push more dollars into these same programs, (b) take the easy way promoting equal “outcomes” versus equal “opportunity”, and now substitute “inequality of results” versus individual “initiative”– to the long term detriment of the economy and our country.

But not one politician is motivated to tell the truth, that each person is ultimately responsible for there own well being. Not all of us can be NFL players, a rock star, a nuclear physicist, or a brain surgeon. Grow up, stop feeling sorry for yourself, and figure out what YOU can do to help yourself. As the Rolling Stones simply stated “You can’t get everything you want!

Posted by COindependent | Report as abusive
 

@COindependent,

Welcome back! Certainly rationality should triumph over irrationality, and logic over emotion. Fervor and/or faith never prevail over indisputable fact in honest debate.

Paths forward to a better future, unblazed and untraveled, are never obvious. Those of obvious merit have long been known, well traveled, and easy to see (as far as they go).

I have always subscribed to the belief that luck is where preparation meets opportunity.

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive
 

Post Your Comment

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
  •