Ranting

What To Give Them For Christmas

December 14th, 2017

Here at the end of the year, the City Council is busy looking at their Christmas list. They’re thinking about giving each other and the mayor a shot at another four years in office. One member has his eye on the shiny permit restrictions a benefactor wants. But a budding consensus seems to agree … for the first time in years … on what they should be giving the kids.

We should applaud that choice.

As published in The Memphis Daily News, December 15, 2017, and in The Memphis News, December 16-22, 2017

Snowden Cover Shot Copythumb7

GIVE THEM TOMORROW.

See the children. See them run.

See the children. See them play.

See the children. See them see.

See the children. See them learn.

See the children. See all that’s possible.

As I prepared to write the 2011 annual report for the Memphis City Schools pre-kindergarten program, just a quick review of numbers and stats told me that this whole Pre-K thing is on to something. Just a minute or two into any meeting with the teachers showed a passion that only comes with the sure knowledge that what you’re doing works, that what it means is much larger than you. Just one glance at the whole-world-is-mine smiles of kids running toward the photographer in what would be our cover shot gave me the cover headline.

“Tomorrow. We’ve got your back.”

They were all Pre-K kids at Snowden School. All four, going on five. All energetic, going on unstoppable. All irresistible, going on irrepressible.

They’re all ours, and more than that, they’re all we can hope for, and the more we do for them early the more they’ll do for themselves and for all of us later. Nourish them – body and brain and heart – when they’re small, the taller they’ll grow, the longer shadow they’ll cast, the greater impact they’ll have, the better life they’ll live.

Leave them behind, and the question isn’t whether or not they’ll get ahead; it’s whether or not they’ll even catch up.

Pre-K is the answer.

In Pre-K, in that one school year of 2010-2011, their gross motor skills doubled and their fine motor skills tripled. Their self-help ability doubled, speech and language improved by two-and-a-half times, and general knowledge grew by more than 400%.

Tests for kindergarten readiness showed MCS Pre-K students scoring higher than children in Head Start and childcare centers, and much higher than parent or relative care – 48% higher in math readiness, in fact, and 61% higher in language.

In 2012, we rejected a ½% sales tax increase to fund Pre-K in a referendum. In the midst of all the turmoil, the confusion and the acrimony of the city and county school merger, in the midst of all that smoke, we lost sight of our kids.

Last week, we found them again.

The City Council executive committee with the suiport of Mayor Strickland recommended approval of Kemp Conrad, Patrice Robinson and Berlin Boyd’s resolution to find a way to fund Pre-K. To put city money into schools for the first time since the merger. To give our kids a better chance and to give us all better odds tomorrow.

If you’re wondering if that should go under the tree, just look at Pre-K kids.

Look at their faces when something unknown is discovered, look in their eyes when the power of that knowledge shines, look at their posture and attitude when they’ve just done something all by themselves they’ve never done before.

See what the world will be worth someday.

I’m a Memphian, and there is no question. Pre-K is the answer.

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