Early childhood education: Investing in our children and our national security

Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonKim Kardashian West defends Kanye on Trump: 'He's a free thinker, is that not allowed?' Trump comments on Fifth Amendment resurface after Cohen filing The 'Handmaid's Tale' liberal feminists created MORE recently said that education “is one of the most valuable assets that the United States has. It’s something that we have to continue to invest in, to protect and indeed to share with the rest of the world.”

The reasons for this are endless, and some are more obvious than others. For example, a more educated workforce earns higher wages, which allows people to rise out of poverty and climb the economic ladder, eventually breaking the oppressive cycle of income inequality. With more money in their pockets, people are able to spend more on goods and services, and this increase in consumer spending grows our economy and creates jobs.

But investing in education is not just beneficial for our economy – it is absolutely critical for our national security.

The correlation between education and national security is often overlooked, not only members of the public, but by our policymakers. That is why I, along with 450 other retired admirals and generals, am a member of a group called Mission Readiness. Mission Readiness was launched in 2009 to inform policymakers that the decisions they make about our children’s education today will have repercussions for our national security well into the future.

Here’s why: 75 percent of the 17-24 year olds in this country are unable to serve in the military due to three main problems: they don’t meet the educational requirements; they have criminal records; or they are too overweight. Nearly one in four high school graduates in America who want to join the Army are unable to because their scores are too low to pass the military’s basic entry exam. And another one-fourth of our young people don’t even make it through high school in time to enlist.

Research shows that early childhood education is the best way to address this national security issue. But no matter what career path our children choose, it is clear that the learning that occurs from cradle to kindergarten will affect their ability to succeed later on.

Unfortunately, too many children today are not receiving the necessary development skills to set them up for success, either because their parents don’t have the resources, the time, the education, etc.

There are two programs in particular that are aimed at making it easier for parents to help their children develop these necessary skills. 

The Home Instruction for Parents and Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY) program was founded in Israel to help “teach parents to become their child’s first teachers.” In 1985, Hillary Clinton learned about this innovative program and tracked down the program’s founder and asked her to help bring HIPPY here to the United States. Today, HIPPY has 135 program sites in 21 states and the District of Columbia and serves 15,000 children.

Too Small To Fail focuses on improving early learning for children ages zero to five. At the program’s launch, Hillary Clinton explained why she was so excited about the initiative, stating:

“One of the best investments we can make as a nation is to give our kids the ingredients they need to develop in the first five years of life. We will help bring together the tools that will give children the chance to succeed by the time they’re 5, so that when those kids get to school, they’re able to compete, they are more able to pursue their own dreams.”

Let’s join together to help American children pursue their dreams and our nation secure itself for generations to come.

Shelton is a former Special Forces soldier and served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1997 to 2001. He served 38 years in the military including his time as Commander in Chief of the United States Special Operations Command. He served two tours of duty in Vietnam.