29 May Preschool V. Mom
From the Desk of Laura Bunker:
It’s the end of the school year, with class parties, awards programs–and signups for next year’s kindergarten and preschool. But before you rush to sign your young children up for preschool, we invite you to read today’s alert by Dawn Frandson, who expertly uncovers the true motives and problems behind the appealing siren song of “universal preschool.”
Dawn presented this message at the 2013 World Congress of Families in Sydney, Australia, where it was enthusiastically received by an international audience.
President, United Families International
Siren Song of Universal Preschool
By Dawn Frandsen
In the United States, there are roughly 2000 days between a child’s birth and the commencement of his formal academic career.
Cognitive development research is unified as to how critical those relatively few days are to forming the neurological connections that will shape a child’s future. And conclusive investigation supports the apodictic assumption that children should indeed spend the majority of those critical days at home under their mother’s care and tutelage.
However, governments worldwide, with plenty of media assistance, are promoting the pretended notion that a child learning at home is substandard. Their siren song is that universal preschool will solve innumerable social ills and better meet children’s and parents’ needs—needs that are presumably insufficiently met at home.
Justified by these promised solutions and in the name of balancing social mobility by giving every child “equal access” to educational, social and emotional development opportunities, the universal preschool song has several verses of vague definitions, and the repeated chorus that ‘without such programs children cannot succeed’ is being sung worldwide.
There is a distinct difference between preschool and universal preschool. Preschool works on free market principles, providing a service for direct needs as determined by the child’s parents. Universal preschool is by nature political. It has long been a worldwide progressive goal to enroll as many children as possible, regardless of income, socio-economic status or actual need into government-sponsored preschools. The agenda ignores the intuitive knowledge that children need their mothers, hyper-focusing on closing the “learning-gaps” of poor children as its justification.
As an integral part of the UN agenda, universal preschool became an officially sanctioned (and funded) program in the United States as part of President Johnson’s War on Poverty. It is currently a top campaign issue on many national and local levels; was the focal point of Mr. Obama’s two most recent State of the Union addresses (but an agenda priority since 2008); part of outspoken national agendas; and cloaked in state legislation.
Worldwide, the verses to this alluring song are all the same: to create an integrated approach to childhood development; mandate “high-quality” schools; allow only “high-quality teachers; demand “accountability” (which requires massive amounts of data collection and retention); and “affordability” (translation:taxpayer funded).
Claim: Women suppressed
Another verse in the song is the tiresome claim from various women’s rights movements that without state sponsored childcare women are suppressed–unable to fully participate in the workforce. This verse claim that government sponsored universal preschool would increase participation of married women—who would otherwise presumably remain at home with their children—in the marketplace by at least 10 percent and be the tipping point for many women to obtain job skills. Some boldly claim that the only role of preschool should be getting mothers out of unfulfilling homemaking roles and into the workforce.
And after each verse is the mantra-like chant of the chorus—children simply can’t succeed without formal institutional early learning.
This song predicting the dire consequences of children deprived of a preschool education ignores an awful lot of negative correlating consequences.Scandinavian countries have some of the highest preschool enrollment rates in the world, (in Sweden , most three-year-olds attend preschool for many hours a day) but those same countries claim the highest worldwide rate of teen discipline problems.
In the U.S., the southern states, who have the highest rate of single parent households and so obviously the highest usage rate of government sponsored preschool, also claim the distinction of the highest concentration of ADHD and mental disorders in children between the age 3 to 17. Additionally, most credible studies concur that there are no long-term sustainable academic results from universal preschool. In the United States, many are pointing out this substandard return on investment, and questioning the billions being spent on so many different (http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-325T?inf_contact_key=c2b4f611102d4a1f14ab144472305c51b91ba2e1b89bee0c6c324552e65bea6f)(45 to be exact) preschool programs.
(P.S. President Obama wants an additional $75 Billion allocated to more universal preschool programs.)
Expensive and Anti-Family
Like all left-leaning solutions to social unhappiness, this one is expensive and anti-family. (Billions is a lot. Universal preschool is a substantial industry. With such a motivating postulate, is it any wonder that so many are fighting for expansion?) But rather than acknowledge that taxpayer-funded surrogate motherhood is a failure, the agenda and its arguments are being subtly and distressingly reframed. The question is no longer “should the government be in charge of the education of young children?” but “how soon should the government step in and take control of those young minds?”
Some of the strongest proponents of universal preschool claim that since brain development begins at birth so should prescriptive learning environments. In recent testimony given on early childhood education to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, Russ Whitehurst, director of the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institute masterfully pointed out that government-funded preschool does not give us our money’s worth; Head Start is inefficient; and there is no correlation between teacher credentials and teacher effectiveness. He neatly identifies blatantly ignored problems including the fact that, “most young children do not need to experience organized center-based care in order to develop normally.”
Incredulously though, his recommendation to the committee was that “Early childhood programs have important functions for parents and the economy, independent of their impacts on children. We ought not to focus exclusively on early learning as the yardstick for measuring the value of public expenditures on childcare.” Instead government should seek to intervene “beginning at or prior to their birth. [Because] programs for 4-year-olds and even 3-year-olds come too late.”
Are there family situations where parents are indeed unable to provide their children a good academic foundation? Unfortunately, yes. Can we prove with absolute certainty the domino effect that too much preschool creates a disproportionate number of social and emotional problems? Probably not. But neither can it be proven that universal preschool will eradicate poverty or produce a “college-and-career-ready” generation.
Universal preschool is not a solution. It sacrifices children’s right to their mother for supposedly more “important functions for parents and the economy.” Embracing universal pre-school requires parents to cede access of their children’s minds and possibly even their hearts to a cookie-cutter definition of success.
Where are the verses to the song acknowledging that our “college-and-career readiness” obsessed world is wrong; that mother-child relationships are paramount; and families should be strengthened, not dismantled through monetary incentives. Sadly, these are hard verses for governments to sing.
Is Pre-School Essential to Your Child’s Success?
While enrollment of children in pre-schools and kindergarten is for the most part optional, “early learning” advocates and the daycare lobbyists continue in their efforts to make preschool mandatory. These folks insist that pre-K programs promote “school readiness” and if you want your child to have the greatest opportunity for success in school– you must start them early! But are they right? While research is on-going, to date there is not much evidence to support an “early-childhood education” position. To see the studies, go here.