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Reiner Campaigns for Educating Youth Early

By Anne Y. Lee, CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Describing his campaign to make the public aware of the impact of education and experience on children during their first three years, filmmaker Rob Reiner spoke to an audience of about 150 in the Science Center yesterday.

Reiner, who directed and/or produced films such as A Few Good Men, The Princess Bride, Stand By Me, and When Harry Met Sally, described his "I Am Your Child" campaign during an address which was part of the Harvard Education Forum.

Reiner, who is the director and founding partner of Castle Rock Entertainment, said his campaign is one that reaches into the root of many societal problems, such as education, public health, crime, child abuse, homelessness and welfare.

"All roads lead to Rome," he said. "What we mean is that a childhood environment determines whether a child becomes a toxic or nontoxic member of the society."

Reiner said that his own early childhood experiences significantly influenced the way his personal interests evolved.

He added that the first three years are critical for shaping a child's future.

"If a child enters school unfettered by a detrimental home atmosphere, then all further educational goals are met," he said.

Reiner also outlined the campaign's two-step plan which emphasizes first educating the public and then creating public policy tailored toward early childhood years.

"We've already [federally funded education] for K-12, but there will come a time when we will fund prenatal--the first five years," he said.

Reiner added that society indirectly pays for negligence in child care during the "zero to five years" by paying welfare and taxes for children later become burdens on society.

Citing statistics which indicate that "90 percent of the brain and 100 percent of the emotional foundation [are] crated in the first three years," Reiner said that the issues of his campaign go "into the core of the fabric of human society."

Reiner described the four main areas targeted by the campaign: parent education, health care, quality child care and intervention programs for families at risk.

It's society responsibility "not just to understand these four areas, but to integrate them," Reiner said.

He said that although currently progress in dealing with these issues is not moving as rapidly as desired, future events will change this.

"You go along incrementally until you reach a critical maximum, and then it explodes," he said. "Once we hit this critical max it seems like nothing's happening and then everything happens."

Reiner said that the weight of the campaign's plan lies in the quality child care.

"The problem isn't finding quality people, they're all there boxing groceries, because it pays more," he said. "[But] we have the worst child care of any nation in the industrial world."

Reiner added that resolving problems related to this issue will heavily depending on "money, money...there is no substitute for money."

To solve the need for money, Reiner said he plans to turn toward citizens, corporations, private investors and state coffers and to propose plans to redirect tax dollars.

"Take people like Bill Gates for example, who aren't doing a goddamn thing--let's put the money someplace where it'll do something," he said.

Reiner said that the main goal of his program is really to educate the public on the issues.

"We're not mandating anything--we're not telling people how to raise their children, we're just giving them the access to the information," Reiner said.

Audience members expressed mixed reactions to Reiner's address.

"[His idea] seems like a good idea, but I'm not so sure about putting so much emphasis on the zero to three years, I think that people have the ability to overcome and create their own destinies," said Dan E. Kim '00.

Matt C. Warburton '00 said he "liked the way that he brought in scientific basis to the big social issue."

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