Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Childcare and economics

Recently I have found myself wondering about what drives society to declare something as "best practice" for child raising.

In this province parents are encouraged to start their children in half-time school at age 4 (schooling is not mandatory until Grade 1, junior and senior kindergarten are optional). Actually if the child's birthday is before Dec 31 they can start Junior Kindergarten at age 3. And everything I have learned about child development says that this is too soon, that asking a child to go to a structured educational setting at that age is too much (in many places half-time woks out to 2 full days a week, some places it is 5 half days a week). But economically it makes sense--it saves childcare costs, it frees parents to be working. And no, we have not yet decided what we will do in 2007 but we are both leaning away from JK.

THe other practice that I am even more sure is linked to economics is the growth of what are considered normal or mandatory vaccines for young children. NOw granted: influenza, chicken pox, pretty much anything can develop severe side-effects. BUt I have this nagging suspicion that much of the push behind shots (adult and child in the case of flu shots) is economic. NOt only do the manufacturers need a market for their product but what happens when illness occurs? People have to stay home from work. Productivity is lost. Economically it is bad. BUt maybe more down time is actually good. Maybe the economically sound alternative is not the healthy one. Really I have nothing against immunizations. They perform a needed task, they contain the spread of potentially deadly illnesses. But is it possible that they aren't always needed? Is it possible that some of them should be saved for the most at risk? Is it possible that our children's immune systems might benefit from being exposed to some of these germs (something that has been suggested in a number of places, I just don't have references with me right now)?

Oh and the above questions on immunizations apply equally well to the burgeoning number of anti-bacterial products that are out there. SOmetimes I am surprised nobody in my house has a deathly illness considering how "well" it is cleaned...

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