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Education is compulsory for children, beyond the massive return on investment it ensures, because it is seen as a prerequisite to democracy. Why? Democracy requires people are sufficiently developed, and have enough of a common core, to come to agreement on the rules under which they should live. But most education laws were written before recent developments in child psychology that show the core of the ability to socialize with others and come to agreement — empathy and a disposition for prosocial behavior — develop very early in our lives, including our infancy.

That’s a problem. How can we have functional town halls without preparing people to care enough for each other to work together? Also, consider the return on investment point above: Education has a huge impact because it determines much about the full measure of our lives, and is designed to impact the majority of our — and all future generations — interactions with others.

All of this suggests that while family planning laws and educational systems are often decoupled, they should not be. We learn at least as much as home as we do at school. Rather, our family planning systems should be the first aspect of educational systems — moving upstream to help assure the social development and educational goals are achieved, and enough to meet that “town hall” standard.

What’s blocking this coupling of systems, family planning and education, that would do so much good?

Big business exerts a lot of influence on our family planning systems, using them to ensure population growth and poor educational outcomes in their quest to create lots of people for shopping malls, rather than fewer people for town halls where their voice matters.

Republicans pushed for changes in the tax code to do just this, and democrats were quick to join the effort. Yes, that’s the level of influence they have in keeping education from really working. They push as many people, through failing systems, as possible to ensure more consumers, cheap future labor, and large tax bases. That’s not what functional town halls look like. But the taboo against change is deep. I’ve worked with animal protection groups and funders whose purported missions commit them to this change, but they won’t support it for fear of backlash– in the end contravening their missions.

What’s the solution? Our political systems are not the final answer when it comes to making policy. Human rights override those systems and empower people to demand change at a constitutional level. Given that creating people for democracy is so important, so primary in nature, we can help intending parents to target the concentrations of wealth and power that made so much money debilitating family planning systems to pay for the reforms we need. Why?

Because people come first, and people come from family planning systems — whether they work well or not. We need to make sure they do work well, for example, through regearing them around equity: every child’s right to an ecosocial Fair Start in life as the first and overriding human right. Without that, how can we come from a just place?

And that move is not as abstract as it sounds. It could be as simple as replacing our pro-unsustainable growth federal child tax policy with a truly equitable and ecologically restorative one that funds family planning-based humane education as a matter of the fundamental right to full — and effective — development as part of true democracies.

We might initiate this through a simple discourse of demand and override — in which the wealthy are urged to admit what they owe, we can lay claim to the funding that would link family planning and educational systems, and build the democracies we deserve, one child at a time. We could combine that with eliminating tax credits for wealthy families (150K+ a year as an example, or a multi-faceted eligibility approach to determination) and the savings could be used 1) to increase credits proportionally for lower incomes, 2) fund a federal human education pilot program under the Dept. of Education, 3) accompanied by a federal messaging campaign modeled on NTSB seatbelt campaigns to promote “delayed families for all.”

Let’s see family planning and education as part of the same system, and start making citizens for town halls, not consumers for shopping malls. That’s what freedom requires.

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