Want a Strong Military? Invest in Early Education

For years the societal benefits of high-quality early education have been used by advocates, teachers, law enforcement officials, and economists to convince legislators and the public to invest money in high-quality early education programs. Many research studies suggest that low-income children who attend these programs are more likely to graduate high school, less likely to commit crimes, less likely to collect public assistance, less likely to become a teenage parent, and less likely to abuse drugs and/or alcohol than their peers who do not attend.

Recently a new group of community leaders have called for greater investments in high-quality early education: the United States military. A group of close to 100 retired generals, admirals, and civilian military leaders released the report “Ready, Willing, and Unable to Serve.” The report notes that currently 75% of young Americans are unable to join the military because of inadequate education, criminality, and physical unfitness. As the military becomes more sophisticated, those who wish to enlist must also be more sophisticated. One US Army General, Henry Shelton, had this to say:

“Our men and women in uniform are the best in the world. But the sophistication of our military is increasing every year so we will soon need even better-qualified recruits. Unfortunately, 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 more investments in high-quality early education.”

The report doesn’t just support opening more 4-year old pre-Kindergarten programs, it advocates for birth-to-5 education. The report also stresses the importance of high-quality programming- not just access to mediocre or low-quality programs. We support both of these arguments.

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