During my final years of teaching, I worked at a large, well-run elementary school in an upscale neighbourhood. One year our principal asked the staff’s opinion on how to distribute the money provided by the district for students with learning difficulties. Should we concentrate our efforts, or spread the extra staffing evenly throughout the school? The Intermediate teachers unanimously agreed that the money was best spent at the lower grade levels. “Teach them how to read,” we told the Primary teachers. “Then we can teach them the rest.”
This rather surprising attitude from a group of experienced professionals made two points. First, we believed that the younger a child receives help, the more effective the help will be. Second, it was an act of faith; we believed that the primary teachers could actually help children learn better for the rest of their lives.
There was no official way to test if this practice was successful, but in ensuing years, no one ever asked for the distribution of funds to change.
And Now to Government
The flip side of this coin suggests that the earlier the damage is done, the deeper it penetrates. This has far-reaching effects if applied to the distribution of social services. It may seem a no-brainer to some of us, but many people can’t seem to see that if you allow children to become damaged at an early age, you are creating problems that will strain the social safety net for the rest of their lives.
Here in British Columbia, we have one of our momentary left-wing governments, making its usual attempt to repair the damage from three sessions of right-wing neglect of the social services. One area they are concentrating on is child poverty and the cost of daycare, a main cause of the stress on young parents that has a negative effect on children who lose their chance to become productive, law-abiding citizens when they grow up. The government is also attempting to put the education system back on an even keel after 15 years of active attacks on the teaching profession by the same former right-wing government. It’s an uphill struggle.
Positive or Negative? A Matter of Belief
I sometimes wonder why I bother to write this stuff. Those who believe we have a responsibility to our fellow humans will all nod and say, “Of course. Help for children and the poor benefits us all.” Those who see everyone else as competitors for a finite amount of resources say, “No way. I earned everything I have. Why should the government take my hard-earned wages and give them to people too lazy to work…” and yada, yada, yada. You’ve heard it all before. It is very hard to change a belief through discussion, but we have to try.
It all has to do with your attitude towards human nature. If you see other people as the enemy, you assume they are all as greedy as you are, you have to fight to succeed against them and you deserve to keep anything you can wrest from society.
On the other hand, if you think of others as friends and allies, you see that helping the less fortunate helps yourself in the long run.
It’s all a matter of point of view. Where do you check in?