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Early childhood eduction: We can pay now or later

I gave the opening remarks for the Early Childhood Education Forum at Copper Mountain on Monday night. Some of my remarks were prepared by others. Some came from my own personal experiences.

I have five children and six grandchildren but my remarks were more about other children I have known – kids growing up in the South Bronx in New York City, Harlem, Bedford Stuyvesant and other equally unpleasant places.

Their early childhood education included things like using drugs and watching family members die in the streets. It was a different culture but with its own kind of reward system.



At the Monday meeting, we learned how the primary form of early childhood education is the education given children by their parents at home – the values and morals the children see their parents exhibit. This is the most basic form of education.

It is about children learning the difference between right and wrong – finding out ways to get what they want through either bad behavior or good behavior. It is about how children live on a daily basis.



The lucky kids also get to experience early childhood education through good child care systems – either in a child care center or in a private home being nurtured by a professional home provider.

Moms and dads can only do so much. The centers and home care teach social skills. Children learn how to share and get along with others. They learn that there is no free lunch and the best way to get what you want is to be nice and get along with your peers.

Sharing a learning experience in that setting even includes beginning to learn about colors, numbers and letters.

 I have always believed you could take a child out of the ghetto and spend as much money as needed for the very best education and the child would end up being a doctor, lawyer or scientist. Left alone the same child might very well end up being a school dropout and turning to a life of crime.

 In my remarks, I used the example of watching the TV show “Cops.” The common denominator of the victims and perpetrators is their apparent lack of education. Without a good education, both groups are caught in a continual cycle of either being the victim or the suspect. What a shame.

Most of the successful gang leaders are very intelligent and have amazing skills in marketing and management. They use these talents to commit crimes rather than to run a legal business. Many gangs are financially well off. They get money illegally and then reinvest the profits into the gang activities.

In my law enforcement experience, I have known of some crime enterprises that actually bought property and legitimate companies with their profits. I have always wondered what they could do with legal businesses. Some of the potential excitement of being shot at and dodging law enforcement would not be there but the same profits probably would be realized.

 Summit County has the dubious honor of being one of the places where most of our moms work outside the home. It is part of living in paradise.

It is part of fitting into our expensive lifestyle in our resort economy. The unintended consequence of this is that most of our preschool children do not spend their days at home. They are somewhere else being cared for by somebody else.

Another important part of all of this is the expense involved. I am not talking about the daily or weekly rate for child care. I am talking about the importance of good early childhood education as a way of preventing costs to society later.

Consider how much we should pay for early childhood education compared to the annual cost of keeping someone in prison. Imagine that no one in prison had quality early childhood education and how a dysfunctional life could have been changed had he or she been influenced in a positive way early in life.

It is the old “Pay me now or pay me later.”

It is up to you and me to decide the importance of good early childhood education. My choice is to pay now.

County Commissioner Gary Lindstrom writes a Thursday column for the Summit Daily News. He can be reached at garyl@colorado.net.


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