Blog post by summer intern Louise Rosler
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” is a question that most children are faced with from a very young age. My answers have vacillated (from a princess, to an author, to a CIA agent—the list goes on), but as I have grown older, this vision has become more foggy. Now all I know is that I want to be making people better off in some way. From my time in Washington, D.C. this summer, I have learned that this is no simple task for one woman, and I constantly wonder how we, as a society, can ensure that our world will grow and thrive in the future.
Interning at Child Care Aware® of America has developed my views on this dilemma. While there are many possible solutions, I believe that we should prioritize the education of children because they will be responsible for the innovations that will drive our country—our world—forward.
I have attended various panels, discussions, and hearings on Capitol Hill, and I have learned that child care, especially early education, can improve a number of our current societal issues. I have also been exposed to both the complexities that come along with public policy, and the importance of keeping an open mind.
A panel I attended considered the importance of early childhood education to the military. Prior to attending, I wondered how it was possible that these two topics could intersect. I learned that the three primary reasons people are ineligible to join the military are obesity, involvement with crime, and low levels of education. Each of these reasons is linked to the quality and effectiveness of early childhood education (directly or indirectly). I was surprised to learn that only 30 percent of young people ages 18-24 meet the military’s threshold requirements in these areas. Having a strong education system in place has been shown to significantly improve outcomes in these areas and increase the pool of candidates eligible for the military. Improved outcomes in these areas is likely to make this group more eligible for non-military jobs, as well, benefit our community more broadly.
But how do we prioritize resources for education when we are facing disaster and violence in other areas that would benefit from increased attention and resources? How do we decide between increased funding for emergencies (both preparedness and relief) and funding toward upgrading our education system? These are important questions to consider, yet they are often avoided by those asking for funding. I have constantly wrestled with them as an emergency preparedness intern because I have been able to research and see firsthand our lack of legislation in this area. I have heard countless stories of schools forced to balance the safety of its children with the quality of its education. With these constraints, most states don’t meet basic safety requirements in child care centers.
Public policy is full of choices, and it is challenging to completely weigh the consequences of various alternatives because things very often play out in unintended ways. A plan that seems perfect on paper can turn into a disaster when implemented. This is because everything is intertwined—every big bill or expenditure has repercussions that are difficult to foresee. The task for leaders is to think past what might sound good, and try to do determine what things will truly benefit people in their countries.
Going forward, my time here will be a constant reminder to look at issues with an open-minded perspective. My passion for the importance of access to education grows the more I learn about the issue. It seems to be one of the only topics where there is bipartisan agreement; positive results and growth follow when more people are able to attain a basic education. Yet, even with something so unarguably beneficial, we are faced with choosing how much education, and what kind of education, and at what point the value of higher education may be diminished.
Considering these complexities, I have determined that no matter what the future holds, or what the key to prosperity may be, the best thing I can do is to consider the long-term ramifications of everything I do and support, and make sure that it aligns with my values.