Education: This Time It Really is About the Children

Matthew Hamilton on September 15, 2014

Education is the process by which we acquire knowledge, cultivate our ability to reason, and develop our skills and abilities. It is a moral responsibility, an ethical imperative, and an issue of justice that the education which children receive provides them with the tools they will need to thrive economically, relationally, and spiritually.

Few realms of human activity have such a profound impact on individuals, families, societies, and nations than the quality (or lack thereof) in education. The effects of the education that our children receive today transcend the present and the near future. We know empirically that failures to adequately educate children will likely lead to profoundly negative consequences not only in their lives, but in the lives of their children.

Mountains of research have proved that poor education is a multigenerational curse. It is well known that the level of education a child receives is often directly linked to the level of education that their future children will receive and so on until such time that this default setting is consciously and painstakingly altered. Hence, the failure to impart fundamental knowledge and skills to our children will lead to the multi-generational curse of poverty for generation after generation.

The consequences of poor education and poverty are pervasive, serious, and incredibly damaging, affecting every area of personal, family, and social life. Poorly developed reasoning and judgment skills lead to flawed decision making in employment, purchasing habits, and relationships. Poverty within a home may lead to severely increased stress levels, wreaking havoc on the parents’ relationship with each other and destroying any semblance of the secure, nurturing environment which children so desperately need for healthy emotional development. This often leads children towards (among many other things) insecurity, aggression, poor relationship decisions, and academic failure of their own.

And so the pattern will repeat itself, with the number of victims from poor education growing at an exponential rate as one generation leads to the next and to the next…

So when we talk about the victims of poor education, it is important to keep in mind that we aren’t just talking about the children sitting in classrooms today – we are talking about their children and their children’s children, all of whom will be adversely affected if the quality of education provided today leaves something to be desired.

And… that is only if we are considering the failures of academic education. If you also factor failures in spiritual education, the negative effects are compounded: divorce, children born out of wedlock, academic failure, social strife, poverty, delinquency, substance abuse, and criminality become the norm rather than the exception.

This is not just a serious issue, this is deadly serious.

However, despite the gravity with which education should be regarded as a social justice issue, it is constantly eclipsed and pushed into the background by far more visually stimulating issues: war has its photos of dismembered children and grieving families, poverty has its depressed and squalid tin shacks with open sewers, religious liberty has its burnt temples and crucified Christians, and environmentalism has its oil spills and clubbed seal pups — but the detrimental effects of poor education are difficult to capture visually and slap on the cover of Time Magazine.

Factual bullet points, graphs, and pie charts are horrendously inadequate at engaging with a visually overstimulated populous which often prefers to feel rather than think. More often than not, the distinction given to social justice issues is based upon the level of emotional response elicited from images and catchy memes rather than any factual quantification.  So, while the failures and long term consequences of poor education are difficult to overestimate, even clubbed seal pups may garner more attention in and public awareness than the enormous disservice done to our children.


While so many issues are cynically presented in the political arena as being “about the children,” this issue really is about the children… and their children… and their children… and their children.

  1. Comment by Nohm on September 15, 2014 at 10:55 am

    My grandmother dropped out of school after 8th grade – not because she was dumb, but because she had learned about enough for someone raised on a farm, and who would marry a farmer. Despite her 8th grade education, she writes more correctly and knows more of American history than the typical HS grad of today, can also do math in her head. Obviously our schools must be doing something to the kids other than actually educating them.

  2. Comment by Greg on September 16, 2014 at 6:47 am

    Matthew: I cannot disagree with your assessments about some of the downsides of an inadequate education, but you overstate the tragedy of it all. There are many uneducated people in our country, and throughout the world, who go on to great success, or who, more commonly, are quite content being middle class and working at a trade, or even an unskilled labor job. A lot of these people instill values into their kids, pay their taxes, go to church, and send their children to college. But college isn’t for everyone.

    But to your point, the social justice angle of education is lost on me when the vast majority of “news” coming out about schools is concerning the leftist agenda of the NEA, and how teachers need and deserve more money. As always . . . .”it’s a matter of justice.” Why can’t Johnny read? Because his teacher had to give back two personal days in the latest contract negotiation. Hog wash!

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