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Retired Generals Call for Early Childhood Ed. in Mississippi

By Daniel Cherry | Published 01 May 2012 07:05pm | comments

Four retired generals say Mississippi's low educational achievement levels could pose a threat to national security. MPB's Daniel Cherry reports how the former military leaders are calling for an early childhood education system in the state.

More than one third of Mississippi's high school graduates who attempt to join the military can't score highly enough on the skills exam to enlist. Retired Army Brigadier General Roger Shields is worried about the future of the military.

"As far as the recruiting, things are going fine right now, but in the future, when you look at the figures we have now, we can see that this could be a dramatic threat to national security."

The four generals are with Mission Readiness, a group calling for policy and investments that help young Americans succeed and have an easier path into the military. Early childhood education has shown to improve overall education in other states, but Mississippi is the only southern state without a comprehensive early learning system in place. Governor Bryant says early childhood education is something he wants to look into.

"This year we tried as best we could to bring together a collaborative effort for early childhood learning. Obviously there are financial challenges."

Longtime education advocate, Claiborne Barksdale is CEO of the Barksdale Reading Institute. He's lobbied for early education for years and he's glad to have support.

"I think this is so great that these generals are down here talking about this because when you start talking about national security and 80 plus percent of Mississippians between 17 and 24 cannot qualify for the military, that gets your attention."

Seventy five percent of young Americans are unable to join the military because they don't graduate from high school, can't pass a basic skills test, are physically unfit, or have a criminal record.

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