7.17.2007

Zero to Five

In this country, education from ages 5 to 18 is free, usually paid for by local property taxes.  From an economic standpoint, it is considered a "positive externality," or something that has positive spillover benefits to those beyond the direct recipients - in other words, getting educated helps you, and it helps you help society, and thus, we as a society are willing to subsidize you getting that education. 

From a public policy standpoint, then, we consider education to be worth subsidizing in this way.  We're investing in ages 5 to 18 so we can reap a return from ages 18 to 65. 

More and more studies are coming out that affirm the importance of investing in ages 0 to 5, particularly as it relates to cognitive development and emotional intelligence.  Without going so far as to say that zero to five is a make-it-or-break-it time window, these studies suggest that how you do from zero to five goes a long, long way towards determining your future success, physical health, and emotional wellbeing. 

Daunting stuff for me, a father of two under five (and whose third will likely arrive before my oldest turns five), but good daunting, in that it reminds of the importance of investing in my kids at this most crucial stage in their development.  Personal perspective aside, I wonder if we will consider the implications of these studies from a public policy standpoint; that if investing in ages 5 to 18 is worth offering free public schooling, what sorts of investments make dollars and sense for ages zero to five. 
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