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"Let Our Mothers Go!"

May 22, 2002

The U.S. House of Representatives passed their version of welfare reform on May 16th. Their well intended but disappointing efforts to reform welfare will unfortunately result in a significant expansion of government interference in the care and educating of all American children at a very tender age.

Their press release said the following:

"The bill also adds $2 billion over five years to the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) program. It also incorporates key elements of President Bush's G Good Start, Grow Smart plan to improve early childhood education, encouraging states to address the cognitive needs of young children so they are prepared to enter school."

The dreams of the central planners to control children from birth will take a big step towards being realized. Now that the other parts of Goals 2000 have been put in place through legislation, such as the No Child Left Behind Act, they can concentrate on Goal number one, which says, "All children will start school ready to learn."

How will states "address the cognitive needs of young children so they are prepared to enter school?" Has anything state or federal governments have done in the area of early childhood ever worked? What kind of teaching do the poor children of America receive through Head Start that they want to expand to every preschooler? Let us examine these "key elements" of the President's plan to see how the $2 billion of our taxes will be spent and what we will get for our hard earned money. What will these programs make a child "ready to learn"?


Element 1: Expand Head Start

The President's plan wants to spend millions more dollars on Head Start programs to improve "cognitive development" of the children and retrain the teachers. His concern for young children is laudable but there are several significant problems with the plan.

First, despite 37 years, more than $44 billion, at least 17 million children, and more than 600 studies, there is no evidence that Head Start works. According to the GAO, the Dept. of Health and Human Services and even one of the program's co-founders, any benefits are gone by the time the child reaches second grade and these programs do not prevent later juvenile delinquency.

Here is a telling quote from Edward Ziglar, co-founder of Head Start and director of the Bush Center in Child Development and Social Policy at Yale University, back in 1987 during the debate on the Act for Better Child Care bill:

"This is not the first time universal preschool education has been proposed. . . . Then, as now, the arguments in favor of preschool education were that it would reduce school failure, lower dropout rates, increase test scores, and produce a generation of more competent high school graduates. . . . Preschool education will achieve none of these results."

Secondly, it is way too soon developmentally to be pushing academic themes on three and four year olds. According to the Cato Institute's Darcy Olson in a recent interview in the Education Reporter, these children are trading their sippy cups for school desks." Even intense preschool programs do not have lasting effects on intellectual development, yet too much time in daycare preschool can cause behavior problems according to a 2001 study from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Thirdly, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the Council for Professional recognition, the groups involved in certifying teachers for Head Start, promote a very radical, anti-academic and multicultural curriculum. (See Baby Ed Government Curriculum)

Here are a couple of standards for NAEYC teacher certification from their website:

Language and Literacy

"They know the sociopolitical contexts of major language groups and how this may affect a child's motivation to learn English. They know the benefits of bilingualism..."

As California and Arizona have found out, bilingual education means teaching an immigrant child in his own language and not teaching them English. They were not assimilating into American life and our economy, where English is still, for a while, the official language. Referenda passed overwhelmingly to teach those children in English. They learned it and test scores increased dramatically. It appears that NAEYC wants to go back to the old ways and keep immigrant children from joining the American way of life.

Mathematics

thematics instruction should be guided by the ...standards developed by the NCTM [National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, the group that drives integrated and fuzzy math as the national standard]...According to NCTM, understanding [of math] develops through interaction with...in settings where students have opportunities to construct their own relationships when they first meet a new topic."

How does one construct a relationship with 2+2? Fuzzy integrated math is being discredited across the country. It is not helping children, especially poor children, learn the academic knowledge they need to succeed in America. NCTM federal government standards are becoming more controversial all the time. Yet, Head Start, through NAEYC teacher certification, would tie our pre-schoolers to this discredited government curriculum.

Multiculturalism

The multicultural standards are even worse. Space does not permit a detailed discussion, but suffice it to say that if NAEYC is in control of these standards, every American preschooler will have the "opportunity" to make their own potions at a witch healer's table or write a letter to a military base saying that the planes are too loud and scary and they shouldn't use weapons. If this sounds too bizarre to believe, we can show you the standards. It's all there.

These standards are the imposition of the non-academic, psychosocial federal curriculum for preschoolers. The federal government has no constitutional authority to set standards for preschool curriculum. If the President and Congress are going to meddle in this area, they are not going to get the truly academic emphasis on pre-reading and numeracy skills they say they want, unless they get rid of the National Association for the Education of Young Children's and the Council on Professional Recognition's monopoly on teacher certification. Short of that, we are in deep trouble with these teacher standards.


Element 2 - Partnering With States To Improve Early Learning

The federal government wants states to set "voluntary" guidelines "on literacy, language, and pre-reading skills activities for children ages 3 to 5 that ALIGN WITH STATE K-12 STANDARDS. These guidelines should be able to be adapted to various child care settings. (Emphasis added)." All education restructuring was initially incorporated as "voluntary," truly a euphemism when the money follows compliance. "Voluntary" has been the veneer of deception for the public and naive elected government officials.

The federal government also wants to fund teacher training and coordinate state programs with the federal programs, Head Start, Child Care Development Fund (CCDF), public school programs, and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF - the replacement for AFDC).

This is the seamless web! This is the cradle part of the cradle to grave system! It is perfectly analogous to what the federal government did to elementary education. The efforts to federalize daycare and preschool is unconstitutional and a direct assault on limited government. It will have the same results as those in K-12: disaster. There will be continuation and extension of the federal government curriculum to very young, vulnerable children.

This curriculum is heavy on attitudes, values and beliefs. This type of radical curriculum is rapidly destroying academic education for U.S. elementary school students. Students don't know their history and heritage. Our young children will start from the cradle with this indoctrination and know nothing else but big government as their source of life. The federal government has severely damaged K-12 education. We cannot have it destroying preschool education as well.


Element 3 - Providing Parents, Teachers, and Caregivers Information On Early Learning

This will be addressed in a separate email.

In summary, President Bush's well intentioned concern for young children should be directed toward helping their parents care for their families by continuing to lower taxes instead of squandering billions of dollars on ill conceived social programs. This initiative and No Child Left Behind are expanding the "Great Society" programs of days gone by. They are the partnerships with Ted Kennedy, Paul Wellstone and Hillary Clinton that keep mothers chained to the workplace instead of free to be home reading to their children. The children of America need to say to the President and Congress, "Let our mothers go!"

Karen R. Effrem, MD
Maple River Education Coalition Board of Directors

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