momchild.bmp (30774 bytes)               BABY ED
February 4, 2001

BIG-GOVERNMENT-AS-PARENT-MYTH: School Readiness "Crisis"
By Dr. Karen Effrem, Pediatrician

The Department of Children of Children, Families, and Learning and all
of the other proponents of the massive intrusion of government into the
parental care of very young children keep spouting the statistic that
“30% of Minnesota preschoolers do not have the basic skills necessary to
succeed in kindergarten.” Given the contradictory nature of the
statistics presented below, several questions must be asked. 1) How
were the children tested? 2) What are these “basic skills”? 3) Is
Minnesota that far out of step to contradict the rest of the nation’s
preschoolers in the national and international comparisons cited?

Darcy Olson, entitlements policy analyst for the Cato Institute, in
the September 1, 2000 edition of Human Events, said the following:

“Whether in preschools or with parents, a recent study of children
entering kindergarten by the Department of Education found that kids are
in top shape on factors kindergarten teachers say are the most important
for school readiness--physical health, enthusiasm, and curiosity. In
terms of concrete reading and math skills, nearly all, 94 percent, are
proficient at recognizing numbers, shapes and counting to 10, and two
in three know their ABCs.”

Ms. Olson then goes on to describe how much better non-universally
preschooled youngsters in America do in the early grades compared to
their international counterparts:

“It's also in the early years when American students are most
competitive internationally. Consider France, England, Denmark, Spain
and Belgium where more than 90 percent of 4-year-olds attend public
preschools. International tests show that by age 9, when the benefits
of preschool should be most apparent, American children outscore nearly
all of their universally preschooled peers on tests of reading, math,
and science.”

She clearly states and the evidence shows that American students do not
begin their decline in international performance until 8th grade and do
not complete that descent to 19th out of 21 countries until the 12th
grade. This information brings up two very important points. First,
the failures of the public schools cannot be blamed on a supposed lack
of preschool and early childhood education with all of its attendant
costs and intrusion into private family life.

Secondly, the decline in international test scores that occurs after
eight or twelve years of public schooling cries out for an examination
of the radical reinvention of education. Programs like Goals 2000 and
the Profile of Learning have resulted in a major emphasis on attitudes,
values, beliefs, behaviors, and job skills with declining ACT and SAT
scores, instead of the broad based liberal arts education that has made
the United States a world leader in so many areas.

Even if one believed that there was a crisis in term of school
readiness in Minnesota, a newly released report by the Legislative
Auditor revealed the following statement with regard to the effectiveness
of these programs:

“Evaluations of the School Readiness Program have not provided
definitive evidence of its effects. The department has sometimes
declared that School Readiness has a positive impact without
acknowledging other possible explanations for the results of its
evaluations.”

Children are not “mere creatures of the state” or a part of Hillary
Clinton’s “village.” Parents must have the freedom and be responsible
enough to raise them without government interference and tracking from
birth. There is no evidence of a school readiness crisis, but there
is plenty of evidence of over-taxation and government interference in
the lives of families with children. Instead of expanding wasteful
government spending, the legislature needs to empower parents to raise
their own children by lowering the tax burden and decreasing monitoring.