In his weekly column in the New York Times Review section, Nicolas Kristof discusses the fundamental need for America to address poverty and crime by investing in preschool education and other early childhood education programs. I worked as a mental health consultant for three years at a Head Start Program in South Norwalk, Connecticut. I saw firsthand the value of early childhood education and the need for it. These poor, mostly African American and Hispanic kids, even with assistance, had little chance at the kind of success and opportunity that wealthier children have and continue to have in America. By age 5, the achievement gap can be as much as two years. In affluent towns, the school systems and teachers are far more skilled at delivering high quality education and support. Impoverished inner city environments put a tremendous burden on the young. Many children are raised by young mothers who lack the skills and resources to parent well. Without additional early assistance, as Kristof writes, we will be increasingly jailing troubled adolescents and young adults who could have been saved.
The idea that we must do something significant about the civil war in Syria seems silly to Mr. Friedman who argues that Sunnis and Shiites have been fighting since the 7th century over the rightful heir to the Prophet Muhammad’s “spiritual and political leadership.” He notes that without boots on the ground to control and develop the center, any intervention will fail as our intervention to take out the dictator Qaddafi has plunged Libya unnoticed into severe economic and political crisis. And since that is not happening, “arm and shame” is our only sensible foreign policy there. I like Friedman and this article is worth reading in detail. It’s an excellent summary of why America’s credibility is not at stake here. Perhaps Obama’s credibility is but as Friedman suggests, Arab civilizations have largely missed every giant opportunity for positive change.