Friday, October 2, 2009

Education and the Recession

We need to take a comprehensive look at the way we "do business" in this country. More accurately, we need to look at the way our economic system functions and the way it periodically malfunctions.

In particular I'm thinking of economic recessions. These "downturns" are portrayed as short-term and having no lasting effect on society. However, a new study by John Irons of the Economic Policy Institute says we better think again. "Economic Scarring: The Long-Term Impacts of the Recession" discusses rising unemployment, falling incomes, lack of health care, and general reduced economic activity, not from the perspective of next quarter's Dow Jones numbers, but from the next generation's prospects for success.

In looking long-term, much of the paper focuses on education and what recession does to that noble enterprise. First, early childhood education will suffer. Most pre-K activity is at the private expense of parents who will be less able to afford quality early childhood education. Moreover, any plans for publicly funded early childhood have certainly been placed on hold as states continue to stagger from falling revenues.

Second, childhood nutrition is negatively impacted by recession, and impedes cognitive abilities. The report cites research (Nord, et al 2008 "Household Food Security in the United States, 2007")that identified 13 million US households with 12.7 million children that experienced food insecurity. Food insecurity is the difficulty in providing enough food for all family members.

The list of recession related stresses on education continues with lack of access to health services such as pre-natal and early childhood care, dental and optometric care. In 2008 there were 46.3 million uninsured Americans and 7 million of those citizens were children (US Census 2009).

Recession obstacles to learning include reduced after-school and summertime activities and the significant factor of housing dislocations and homelessness.
Finally, families will delay or abandon hopes of sending children to college.

The whole picture of the recession style education is one of lasting effects. Failures in education now can lead to career challenges and reduced wages later. Finally, because social mobility issues are generational, we could be experiencing outcomes of the recession 50 years from now.

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