04/05/08 — What really works: Education fights poverty more effectively than social programs

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What really works: Education fights poverty more effectively than social programs

There are already a lot of people talking about eradicating poverty in general and what the presidential candidates are going to promise to do about improving the lives of the nation’s lower income residents in specific.

Also in the news this past week are some statistics from Wayne Community College — enrollment of minority students is down.

Now, the two do not necessarily connect. Not all of the nation’s poor are minorities and not every minority student decides that Wayne Community College should be his or her school of choice after graduating high school.

But the two do make you think — a bit — about what it will take to get some people out of poverty and to better lives.

And the first thought that springs to mind is education.

It has been proven time and time again that those who finish high school and pursue some sort of vocational training or higher education will do better than someone who drops out.

If you have no skills or knowledge to offer, you cannot possibly make enough money to support a family. So, keeping children in school and pushing young adults to continue learning are critical to relieving some of the burden of poverty.

And that leads to the next problem — also a topic of conversation in the news recently — teenage pregnancy and the increasing number of county teens who are battling sexually transmitted diseases.

A child has no business with a child. There are examples everywhere of the destruction that occurs when someone who is in no way ready to be a parent takes on the responsibility of a baby. They usually do not have the means or maturity to raise a child properly — and their offspring are left without direction or role model. And all that creates is a new generation headed for poverty.

Perhaps we need to look a little harder at the areas with the highest teen pregnancy rates and work harder to reach these children before they make a decision that alters their lives forever.

And these are just a couple of the concerns that are affecting poverty today. There could be hours of conversation about the destruction of the American family and the number of people who still believe that welfare is a career.

But this all boils down to one quality — responsibility for one’s own future — that seems to be lacking in many areas of the country.

As we banter about improving the lives of Americans, we have to also think about expecting more from Americans. All the social programs in the world will not force responsible behavior if there are plenty of carrots and no sticks to discourage irresponsible and dangerous behaviors. It is time to set some limits and requirements on those who want to take government help but refuse to do anything for themselves.

If we want more, we are going to have to start demanding more.

That is the only way some people are going to learn that they have a right to ask for help, but not to expect taxpayers to foot their bills.

Despite what some of the candidates and public officials might tell you, there is no magic wand to fix poverty. It will take real policy work and some backbone to get this job done.

Published in Editorials on April 5, 2008 11:42 PM