A Public Service Message from the American Income Life Insurance Co.Waco, TexasBernard Rapoport, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer Nutrition Programs: An Investment In Our Nation’s Intellectual Capital by John R. Silber President, Boston University The most important natural resource of any country is the intelligence of its people. History and the contemporary scene abound with examples of highly successful societies in countries with minimal natural resources like coal and iron. Japan is a striking case: it must import nearly every raw material it uses except for food, and yet four decades after the devastation of World War II, it has become an industrial giant with the third largest GNP in the world. Such countries succeed by cultivating the one natural resource that substitutes for all the others: intelligence. They do so by showing a careful concern first to educate their people and then to advance them in proportion to the ability they show. Their foreign trade is an exchange of the products of the mind for the products of the earth. The United States does not lack ability to exploit intelligence: the fruits of the space program are evidence of this, and there is no better example of intelligence replacing raw materials than the thousands of miles of copper wire replaced by a communication satellite. We are, however, careless of the intelligence of our people. We tolerate an educational system that leaves many barely literate and so lacking in mathematics that they cannot balance checkbooks, let alone perform as engineers. In the name of false egalitarianism we tolerate a dilution of standards in education that wastes the intellectual potential of a nation. We tolerate, moreover, an even more debilitating and permanent waste of the national intelligence. There is scientific agreement on the deleterious effect of malnutrition on the brain cells of infants. If a carrying mother is malnourished, she will bear an infant whose brain is smaller than normal, and who may suffer other neurological damage. If an infant is malnourished, its brain will not develop optimally. The result of malnutrition is avoidable retardation; there is no doubt as to what constitutes proper nutrition. That is, we have identified a serious problem and we have an answer for it. All we lack is the will to apply the solution, which could be done through a comprehensive program of nutritional education and supplement for carrying mothers and for very young children. This would guarantee that all Americans are born and grow up with a full complement of brain cells, able to make full use of their genetic inheritance and their education. Such a program could be precisely targeted: the nutritional education would be available to all, and the nutritional supplement to those whose income warranted it. The program would be very different from the scattershot and easily abused food stamp program, and it would promptly pay for itself. It would do this in two ways. First, it would serve socially as effective preventive medicine. A child mildly retarded through malnutrition is likely to live always on the margin of society. He will probably not be recognized as retarded, but perceived as incompetent rarely hired and often fired. With luck, he will often be on welfare; without it, he will often be in jail. And jail is more expensive by far than college: currently the average prisoner costs the taxpayer several times the cost of attendance at the average college. To prevent retardation through a program of nutritional education and supplement is to prevent a lifetime of welfare or crime: a remarkably costeffective use of the tax dollar. This nutrition program restores those toward the bottom of the I.Q. scale to useful citizenship. It would be no less beneficial for those toward the top. Every year, a certain number of children are born who would, if adequately nourished, have been extraordinarily intelligent. Retarded by malnutrition, they are born merely very bright. A somewhat larger number who might have been born very bright are through malnutrition born of average intelligence. The individual costs to such people are hard to assess, for intelligence, especially very high intelligence, creates problems no less than opportunities; and happy and useful lives are lived by millions of people of average intelligence. But the societal cost of losing intelligence off the top can be very great. We cannot know whether in 1940 someone was born who might already have developed a cure for cancer had he not been the victim of gratuitous retardation; but the problems facing us are so serious that we cannot afford to lose any of the intelligence potentially available to us. It makes good sense to distinguish between government expenditures for consumption and those for investment and to favor the latter. A comprehensive program of nutritional instruction and supplement is not a program of welfare consumption. It is, an investment in our nation’s intellectual capital with a rapid : payback in increased production; it also contributes to genuine. public welfare by reducing the need for consumptive welfare and prisons. This essay originally appeared in the Boston Herald. Reprinted with permission. Affe American Income Life Insurance Company EXECUTIVE OFFICES: P.O. BOX 208, WACO, TEXAS 78703, 817-772.3050 BERNARD RAPOPORT Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer THE TEXAS OBSERVER 23
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