Should Government Provide Preschool At All?
Q. It's easy to see
that well-educated, high-income parents are jockeying to get their children
into the very best preschools. So preschool must be a good thing! We all know
that poor kids come to kindergarten with smaller vocabularies than their rich peers, and they don't know their letters
and numbers as well. They have social and emotional deficits that keep them
from succeeding. So high-quality, "free" preschool, provided by the government,
seems like a good idea. Shouldn't poor kids get the same benefits, with
financial assistance from the government where warranted, as rich parents can
give to their own kids?
in moderation! "More" is not better! That's the key. Insecure parents who think
that the "best" (most expensive, all-day programs with staff who have master's
degrees) preschools are going to pay off in the long run are misguided. The
very best way to prepare a child to excel in school is to have a great
parent-child relationship at home, and develop the child's heart ever bit as
much as his or her head. That doesn't cost a dime extra.
that to others -- putting children in out-of-home preschool or day care all
day, every day, whether in a ritzy neighborhood or one in the 'hood, is what is
destructive. Part-time preschool or day care can actually be very, very good
for both the child and the parent, since it is associated with better academic
skills and adjustment to the school setting as well as a happier, more
fulfilled parent, usually the mother, who gets the best of both worlds by
balancing part-time work with full-time motherhood, rather than trying to work
one or sometimes two full-time jobs to make ends meet.
extent that low-income parents need financial aid in providing part-time
preschool experiences for their children, it is hard to disagree that taxpayer
dollars and private-sector philanthropy ought to support their desire to give
their children a strong start - with a moderate, part-time approach.
of a "head start," did you know that the most famous "Head Start" program doesn't
help poor kids at all, and actually, is setting them further behind? The test scores, high school graduation rates, and college
enrollment rates are all lower for kids who were in Head Start, and their arrest
rates remain higher, compared to low-income children who were NOT in a Head
is why Congress attempts periodically to scrap the program entirely. Head Start
costs over $6.6 billion a year, with 900,000 preschoolers enrolled at an
average cost of $7,000 apiece.
Start was designed to give the children of poverty some of the developmental
experiences and benefits that children from middle-class homes enjoy. The goal
was to make them be just as ready for kindergarten as their peers in the
suburbs, with a level playing field in the game of academic success.
trouble was, Head Start quickly became politicized. There is no accountability
structure built in, to make Head Start workers prove how the money taxpayers
are investing in Head Start is paying off for kids. Therefore, it is NOT paying
off for kids. Instead, Head Start has became an entitlement for social liberals
who let money, power, and the lack of accountability interfere with goals involving
special interest groups of all kinds had a hand in the till. The "sociocultural
context" becomes key. Instead of knowledge, the goal is shaping behavior. Instead
of productive early childhood activities that would get the kids ready for
reading, 'riting and 'rithmetic, they were either being merely "warehoused" -
free day-care for poor parents - or given a daily dose of social engineering,
such as "anti-bias curriculum" to make these preschool age children
"appreciate" homosexuality and so forth. And all of this wasted effort was at
is no doubt that any form of taxpayer-provided universal, "free" preschool
would extend this outrageous situation to ALL early childhood education in this
country. That, of course, is unacceptable.
Start appears to be glorified, socialistic babysitting at taxpayer expense,
unfortunately. Proof is found in the paragraphs below.
you don't believe that too much preschool and day care are bad for kids of any
socioeconomic status, consider the wisdom of Edward Zigler, professor of
psychology at Yale University, who is considered the father of Head Start.
That the government-sponsored early childhood education program that has been
in existence since the 1960s. Zigler administered the Head Start program
when it was first created, but wrote this letter on June 4, 2002:
is great individual variation in the course of early development. Most
two-year-olds, and indeed, many threes, simply are not ready for formal schooling.
In the normal course of development, the physical, cognitive, and emotional
skills necessary for school emerge at various rates and times in each child.
The child who has not yet achieved one developmental activity or another will
be disadvantaged by premature school entry. Children whose first exposure to
school brings negative experiences may be doomed to a negative -- and lasting --
attitude toward education. It is best to make school for such young children a
voluntary matter to be chosen when parents and educators agree that it is in a
child's best interests."
also important to note that in the late 1990s, the federal government's General
Accounting Office (GAO), which is in charge of determining whether government programs
work and whether our tax dollars are well spent, reported that current research
does not demonstrate that the Head Start program has a significant
impact on children.
reviewing about 600 separate studies on Head Start, the GAO stated:
is known, however, about whether the program has achieved its goals. Although
an extensive body of literature exists on Head Start, only a small part
of that involves program impact research. Because of these researched studies'
individual and collective limitations, this body of research is insufficient
for use in drawing conclusions about the impact of the national program."
Homework: For more on this topic that is
pro-Head Start and compulsory preschool, see www.naeyc.org
(National Association for the Education of Young Children), and for information
that is anti-Head Start and compulsory preschool, see www.hslda.org/docs/nche/Issues/E/Early_Education.asp,
read www.educationnext.org/20041/26.html or search "Head Start" on www.cato.org