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The baby bombers

‘Early childhood education and care = a panacea in a world of social crises’ was a key theme of a lecture given earlier this week by Mathias Urban, professor of early childhood at the University of Roehampton.

Among the most surreal of the examples Prof Urban referenced was that US generals have been calling for better intervention in the early years to help ‘ensure national security’.usarmycreditbonnie

He drew attention to their catchily-titled report, Ready, Willing, And Unable To Serve, 75 percent of Young Adults Cannot Join the Military, Early Education across America is Needed to Ensure National Security in which retired top brass say things like  ‘Our national security in the year 2030 is absolutely dependent upon what is going on in pre-kindergarten today’. (This was rear admiral James Barnett, US Navy).

Or Henry 'Hugh' Shelton General, former chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, with ‘The number of young Americans who have high-school degrees, are in good physical shape, and are without criminal records is declining. To keep our country strong and safe, we need to ensure all young Americans get the right start in life – we need more investments in high-quality early education.’

The statistics they report are shocking: among 16-24 year olds, obesity rules out 27 percent from even applying. Nearly a third (32 per cent) have disqualifying health problems other than their weight – such as asthma, eyesight or hearing problems, mental health issues, or recent treatment for ADHD.

The report is signed by 91 of the US’ top brass, and endorsed by US Education Secretary Arne Duncan, and former NATO commander Gen. Wesley Clark.

While the report generated its fair share of headlines when it was written in 2009 (as did its follow-up Too Fat to Fight in 2010) it is less clear how the US early years sector reacted.

Though no-one can argue with the idea of reducing obesity, criminality and educational attainment in the population, the US military is a surprising and rather discomfiting ally to have in a baby room.

Image supplied under Attribution Share-Alike licence credit: Bonnie.U.Gruenberg

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