Two science articles caught my eye yesterday. The first tells us that scientists have learned that children in poverty have 6% lesser brain surface mass than children who live in affluence. (As aside – the “framing” of this article is so offensive to me with the use of the word “sad” speaking volumes about the author isnt thinking about any children they actually KNOW). If this is the case – along with the evidence that children experiencing the toxic stress of poverty develop less than their potential working memory (as in what they most need to get good grades in school) then we are seeing the emergence of compelling scientific evidence that should transcend any American meme about how people get what they earn and that people just need to pull themselves up by the bootstraps. Now those arguments must be silenced because – of course! – no one will knowingly place little children in situations that effect their brain development, condemning them for all time to a less-than status in our society. No one would do that knowing what we know. Right? Stay tuned!
But wait! There is hope! The second article is how -even when children are living in toxic stress poverty – their outcomes are greatly improved with the care and attention of at least one nurturing adult – say, like a child care teacher???? Science of Resilience
So knowing this, we would want to optimize the potential for that adult “rescue” relationship to be available for children in poverty, right? We would make sure that that adult wasnt also drowning in the toxic stress of poverty and a high stakes, high demand job. We would ensure that children had reasonable access to one-on-one time with such a powerful intervention so the ratios and group sizes of child care classes would be predicated on optimizing that relationship. And when we had to weigh the costs of such high quality child care with the social costs of lives cast by poverty, then we would see what Heckman and others have been patiently explaining. “If you do not sow in the spring, you will not reap in the autumn” – a profound Irish proverb (!) I joke about profound but apparently we can’t connect these simple cause and effects. Maybe we really do need the simplistic framing of common sense to wake us up to the Law of the Harvest.