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Tornado a symptom of a national disease

Published May 23, 2013 1:01 am

Do Americans really care about kids?
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

By Kyrie O'Connor

Houston Chronicle

Today is not the day to pile onto the troubles of tornado-torn Moore, Okla., and that's not my intent.

I will, however, say this: To me, the least surprising aspect of the tragedy is that in a town struck by four tornadoes since 1998, including one that took a nearly identical path, there was no real plan for shielding some of the schoolchildren. The city website touts that all the schools have a tornado plan, but what they really had was the illusion of a plan. (Sending kids out to the hall and telling them to hang onto the walls is not a plan. Having a teacher lie on top of students to save them is not a plan.)

I was not surprised because of something I've long known: We really don't care about kids.

Don't act all shocked. Remember Newtown. More than five months after that horror, very little is different. Connecticut passed stronger gun laws, but nationally, nothing happened. The next nut can just as easily blow away the next batch of 6-year-olds.

"Caring" and "getting sentimental about" are utterly different things. "Caring" involves thinking ahead, planning, unity and resolve. "Getting sentimental about" involves sending cheap teddy bears.

Irrespective of politics, we can all agree on what children need: a stable and loving home life, nourishing food, plenty of physical play, a comprehensive education, strong civic and spiritual values.

We're giving them the opposite. It's hard for me to think of anything more antithetical to a rich childhood than handing a toddler an iPad.

One quarter of children ages 2 to 5 (2 to 5!) are overweight or obese. More than 40 percent of all babies are born out of wedlock. (Mazel tov to the single mothers out there, but you know it's not ideal.)

American fourth-graders rank 11th in a recent measure of math skills - and the numbers are much worse for older children demonstrating advanced math skills: 7 percent of students versus 48 percent in Singapore and South Korea.

By the end of the year, that charming "sequester" from our friends in Washington will knock 70,000 preschoolers out of Head Start. Again, debate the politics all you like, but preschool education is one of the markers of future school performance.

"What's remarkable is that in all the countries, this concept of an early start is there over and over again," Michael O. Martin, an executive director of the International Study Center at Boston College, told the New York Times late last year. "You can get the early childhood experience in a variety of ways, but it's important you get it."

Yet again, nobody cares.

A nation raising fat, lonely, dumb kids is not a nation headed for continued success. It's a tornado that just keeps twisting.




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