Great societies value their children. They implement as a matter of course policies and practices that support each child's healthy development, guarantee the fulfillment of a basic level of need, and in the best of all worlds, provide the tools with which talents can be developed, dreams can be nurtured and potential has, at a minimum, an equal and fully unfettered opportunity to be truly fulfilled.
In America, we talk a good game about loving our children, but do we walk the walk? Do we offer the tools and implement the practices for every girl and boy to live healthy lives abundant with opportunity and overflowing with promise? A harsh look at our practices and an honest assessment of our outcomes suggest, sadly, that we do not.
From the very beginning, childhood in America is a precarious proposition. Our infant mortality rate remains the highest of any industrialized nation in the world. And our child poverty rate is now the second highest among our wealthy peers. But somehow we still sit idly by as a sequestration process takes hold, knowing that the result will mean millions cut from food and nutrition services, safe and affordable child care options, and even critically important childhood vaccinations.
We mourn when a classroom full of kindergartners have their bodies quite literally riddled with bullets and shake our heads when innocent teenagers meet a tragic doom in Chicago, but somehow we face an uphill climb when it comes to passing even the most basic of gun control legislation.
We employ zero tolerance policies in school systems across this nation, and in so doing, entangle the criminal justice system into school disciplinary functions. The result is the establishment of persistent and stubborn school-to-prison pipelines that routinely destroy futures before they've even had the opportunity to begin.
These are not the actions of a society that loves its children. Nor are they the actions of a society that truly values its own future. Even a superficial understanding of the global economy would underscore the fact that we have not one iota of human capital we can afford to waste. The pathway to better lives and better outcomes for our children and for this nation is an increased focus on and investment in the needs of our kids. Not just because it is the right thing to do or even because it is what one does when one loves and values their young. Though all of that is true, we need to invest in our children because, in the long run, it is the best thing to do for America.
When the president advances ideas like universal Pre-K, the modernization of this nation's high schools, and pushes back on impending across the board cuts which hit our most vulnerable the hardest, in the political climate that we currently operate, it is easy to say we can't afford it.
But in the global marketplace that becomes increasingly competitive with each passing day, perhaps the better response is -- can we afford not to?