Stop Playing with our Children’s Future!
House Bill 39 (HB 39) defies the Common Core State Standards Initiative, adopted by about 43 states, that seeks to standardize public education nationally from K-12. HB 39 defines adequate education as simply math, science, language arts and social studies. It excludes art, music, world languages, health education, physical education and technology. A hearing before the education committee drew about 100 New Hampshire residents who opposed to the bill. Many spoke of the benefits of art, music, world languages and technology.
This is a short-sighted bill that will hurt NH public schools. It will increase the educational achievement gap between public and private schools, plus it will polarize education. Children from those towns that rely heavily on state funding for education will not receive the benefit of a well-rounded education and will be not be adequately prepared for college. Think about a school day consisting only math, science, social studies and language arts, a boring day for many children and ignores that children learn in different ways.
Art and music are essential to stimulate the creative side of our brain. These classes develop our visual and auditory senses and help children perform better in the ‘HB 39 classes.’ They are also a means of communication that have inspired greatness in many leaders. Our global economy makes world languages essential by facilitating communication, understanding and appreciation of other cultures. It even helps children understand their own language. To even consider an education that does not include technology is insane. How can an education committee be so irresponsible?
This was my first legislative hearing, but a bill that eliminates health and physical education was a breaking point for me to speak out. In NH, one in 3 third graders are either overweight or obese yet the education committee feels physical and health education is not important. One in five children are bullied on school property. There is another type of bullying that does not get much media attention. It is bullying that takes the form of physical and sexual assaults in teen relationships. Mental illness, alcohol, substance abuse, teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases are still large problems. These issues are the foundation for later violence, homicides, incarceration, homelessness and suicides among teenagers and young adults. The second leading cause of death in teenagers and young adults, ages 15-34 is suicide and the third leading cause in children, ages 10-14. Unintentional injury is the leading cause of death in children ages 1-4, and in adolescents and young adults, ages10-34, and also middle age adults, ages 34-44. Ninety percent of people who commit suicide have mental illness and substance use problems. Seventy percent of children in the Juvenile Justice system have mental disorders according to The National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice (2006). We can prevent some of these outcomes by molding the environment to promote health and prevent risky behaviors. By ,also, increasing protective factors and decreasing risk factors through the development of inner strengths and external supports leading to resilience, the ability to cope. and to make healthy choices.
Most psychopathologic and behavioral problems seen in children can be prevented if they are exposed to supportive and positive environment, in spite of, any genetic predispositions. The brain changes structurally every day because of the constant bidirectional interaction of genes and experience. The first five years have a tremendous impact of adulthood, partly because they form the foundation upon which experiences are perceived and interpreted. It is during this period that many neuronal circuits become established. Toxins, nutritional deficiencies and trauma can severely affect the strength and development of circuits in the brain, which determine behavior. That is why early intervention is so important. Fortunately, there are many other opportunities to intervene and schools are in the best position to so by providing universal primary prevention from K-12. Why wait until there is a problem?
Society is changing and not all of it is good. Community and connectedness are lacking. Families and children feel isolated despite the proximity to others. More children are unsupervised at home. Many are getting their values and beliefs from the internet and violent video games. For kids, texting and social networking have become a major means of communicating. Bonds do develop from this form of communication but they are not as strong and kids don’t develop the other 90 % of communication which is non-verbal and tone. Personal interaction is vital to developing empathy and compassion which create a sense of belonging and connection. Many of the problems we see today stem from the lack of connection and communication.
The fundamental role and goals of education will need to change to prepare children for the 21st century. Schools provide a vital portal of entry and can be used to impart social and emotional well-being. Most children with untreated medical, mental and substance use problems have difficulty with cognition, focusing and engaging in school work or other activities. These problems need attention before these children can become vested in their education and reach their full potential. A positive supportive school with high and clear expectations where children are respected and cared for can counter many detrimental environmental and genetic predispositions. These schools are not only successful in increasing academic performance and decreasing drop-out rates, they provide a safe and trusting community where child feel cared for and connected.
Education reform starts with us being positive role models for our children; communities and the health care delivery system working with schools to provide an umbrella that protects children from the elements, thereby, removing the barriers to learning.
HB 39 and similar bills are regressive and dangerous. Such bills destroy our children’s future.
Angela Crane, M.D.