08/13/11 — The real cure: Program expansion might help, but it is not the true solution

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The real cure: Program expansion might help, but it is not the true solution

What is the solution to the problems that plague our county, our state and, most especially, our schools?

There is no easy answer to that question -- only a nagging feeling that we have been here before, pondering the same question and thinking that, perhaps, this time, we might have found the answer.

North Carolina is going to roll the dice again -- this time by offering every 4-year-old in the state the chance to get a head start on school, to learn some of the skills necessary to succeed.

No one has figured out how counties are going to pay for extra personnel and classrooms this decision will require, but, for now, the die has been cast.

The idea, of course, is that the better-prepared these children are young, the more likely they are to succeed as they progress in their school days.

And to a certain extent, that is true. Children who have basic skills mastered before they get to kindergarten are much readier than those whose families have sent them to school without teaching them the bare minimum that they should know.

But here is the concern -- and it is one we have discussed before.

Then, what?

A pre-kindergarten program might be a good start, but it will not keep a sixth-grader progressing or a teenager engaged long enough to make it through middle school and high school.

There is something missing, some step we are not considering as we try to solve the problem of children who are graduating -- or not graduating -- with the skills they need to make it in a world that is increasingly competitive and tough to navigate.

We are missing a lesson somewhere, an element that we need to make the goal of a quality education for every child more than a pipe dream.

We have talked about the "other" factors before -- lack of parental involvement, children having children and poverty, drugs and the many other distractions that lead young people to believe they cannot make it -- or show them a lucrative alternative to the hard work and dedication it takes to make a solid, honest life.

We have discussed how there are too many people having babies they cannot care for properly -- and who raise children who end up in the same cycle of early pregnancy, lack of education and limited futures.

We talk all the time about accountability, responsibility and what we can do as a nation to force those who choose to be parents to do the right thing when it comes to raising their children.

And yet, we are still facing the same problems.

Perhaps adding More at Four classes will work. Maybe there will be more children set on the right path, more young people striving for graduation and better lives because they received guidance early.

Let's hope so. You can bet we will be seeing the effects of adding so much more to a program that has struggled to make ends meet.

But even this step will not fix what's ailing this nation -- mostly because it does not really address the problem.

Training a child at age 4 is not enough to keep him or her building on success and striving for graduation and beyond.

Truth is, we have to demand more from those charged with raising them, and be prepared to present consequences for those who choose not to live up to their responsibilities.

And we have to offer an alternative, a motivation to encourage people to think and to act responsibly -- before they conceive a child.

There will never be enough money to completely fix the problems that plague education -- and that is because it is not lack of money that is causing those issues at their very core.

It will take a change in what we, as a nation, demand of our fellow citizens, our children and those who have the honor of being parents.

It will require a dose of tough love.

Until we are willing to do that, treating the symptoms will have to do.

Published in Editorials on August 13, 2011 10:56 PM