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May 28, 2002
"...the ultimate goal 'is to bring home visitation services to all new parents.'" Deborah Daro, former research director for Prevent Child Abuse America, in 1993 Congressional testimony.
Mere Creatures of the State?
In the last alert, we discussed the first two parts of the President's early childhood initiative - Good Start, Grow Smart (HR 4737) - in the context of the U.S. House of Representatives' welfare reform plan.
To briefly review, the first element involved expanding the failed, expensive Great Society program Head Start. Discussed were the following facts:*Despite billions of dollars Head Start has not resulted in long term academic improvement.
What was not discussed in the last alert was how intrusive and invasive this program is. Besides preschool, Head Start provides medical, mental health, dental, and nutrition services and home visits to tell parents how to raise their children. This program monitors and keeps databases on the whole family on all of these aspects.
Dianna Lightfoot and the National Physician's Center in Birmingham, Alabama did a study on with home visiting. Here is what was found.
*Six control group studies show no decrease in child abuse rates.
*Comprehensive services can cost up to $47,000 per family and still show no improvement in cognitive development of the child.
*Medical records are reviewed without consent.
*Consent may not always be informed and voluntary for participation.
*Home visitors may have as little as 5 days of training.
*Information presented to parents may be unscientific or biased.
*Massive amounts of private family data are collected.
*Families may unknowingly give up 4th amendment rights.
Expanding Head Start without stopping these invasive and ineffective home visiting programs will only further erode parental control over children. The central planners are not content with just one group of children. Deborah Daro, former research director for Prevent Child Abuse America, said in 1993 Congressional testimony that the ultimate goal "is to bring home visitation services to all new parents." (Emphasis added)
The mental health aspects of Head Start and related early childhood programs are also quite disturbing and will be addressed in the next alert.
The second part of the President's plan we discussed was called "partnering with states to improve early learning." This acceptance of "voluntary" standards and programs is exactly analogous to the implementation of "voluntary" Goals 2000 standards and the School to Work program across the nation. States desperate to get a fraction of return on their onerous federal tax burden have been willing to accept nearly any federal mandate. States have allowed the federal government to take authority over and to run elementary education and workforce development and to centrally plan the economy. We can only pray that we won't be foolish enough to allow Uncle Sam to literally become the federal nanny, as well.
Now to discuss the third element of the President's plan:
Element 3 - Providing Parents, Teachers, and Caregivers Information On Early Learning
"...there is no evidence...": Dr. John Bruer, Director of the James McDonnell Foundation in St. Louis, one of the nation's premier institutions dealing with early learning and neuropsychology
The first problem with element 3 is its basis on a faulty understanding of the neuroscience research. Proponents of the government takeover of parenting essentially make the case that if children do not have "quality" childcare, preschool, or if the government does not give out the proper information on development, their brains will not develop properly.
At the very least, this research is wildly controversial. At worst, it is patently false. Experts in neuroscience and child development have debunked it.
Much of the research for this point of view was conducted on rhesus monkeys that have a different developmental cycle than do human children, or on rats. These animals lived in deprived laboratory environments, meaning they were locked in cages and deprived of stimulation. They were then provided with a normal environment, comparable to what their normal wild habitat would have been. Dr. John Bruer, Director of the James McDonnell Foundation in St. Louis, one of the nation's premier institutions dealing with early learning and neuropsychology, asserts:
"What neuroscientists know about synaptogenesis (brain development) does not support a claim that zero to three is a critical period for humans.... Finally, there is no evidence, or even the suggestion, that specific kinds of learning experiences or early childhood environments influence the rate, duration, or outcome of synaptogenesis and synaptic pruning."
Brain researchers Alison Gopnik, Andrew Meltzoff, and Patricia Kuhl, confirm this in their book, The Scientist in the Crib: Minds, Brains, and How Children Learn, (William Morrow and Company, New York, 1999, p.182.), when they say:
"The new scientific research doesn't say that parents should provide special 'enriching' experiences to [babies] over and above what they experience in everyday life. It does suggest, though, that a radically deprived environment could cause damage."
The President is getting very bad advice on this issue. Mr. and Mrs. Bush's commendable concern for young children is being manipulated into support for this statist plan. The President's advisers and Congress should read the National Academy of Sciences report, From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development. On page 216, it states:
"Available evidence indicates that such critical periods are more exceptional than typical in human development. Assertions that the die has been cast by the time the child enters school are not supported by neuroscience evidence and can create unwarranted pessimism about the potential efficacy of interventions that are initiated after the preschool years."
The window of development does not close in the first five years. Spending billions more tax dollars to saddle America's youngest children with government school control and failure is the very LAST thing we should be doing.
This part of the President's early childhood initiative also shows the obnoxious concept so prevalent in federal education legislation. The status of parents and family are lowered to a level of mere "partners" in the raising and education of their own children. Though Congress paid lip service to the words in the Supreme Court decision in Pierce v. Society of Sisters, they have ignored the concepts in deed. That court decision says in part:
"The child is not the mere creature of the State: those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right coupled with the high duty to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations."
Parents own the store when it comes to raising their children!!! They, not the government, are in charge!!!! This has been confirmed throughout thousands of years of civilization.
So why this emphasis on "early childhood care and education," otherwise known as federalized baby sitting? Is it because, as the bureaucrats say, American children are not coming to school "ready to learn?" See what you think after reading the following discussion of federal studies by Darcy Olson of the Cato Institute:
According to the U.S. Department of Education Study "America's Kindergartners," (NCES 2000-070, February, 2000):
94% are proficient at recognizing numbers, shapes, and counting
92% are eager to learn;
97% are in good health.
"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." - (National Center of Education Statistics, "Elementary and Secondary Education: An International Perspective," Department of Education, March, 2000, pp. 50-56)
There is no kindergarten readiness crisis in this country!
The reason for this push to universal early childhood training is that our children are seen as "human resources" by the government and big business. They want their "human capital" trained.
Children receive the greatest influence and training in all matters, including religious issues, from their parents during their first five years. Children raised and educated by their parents are more likely to question the big government rhetoric they receive from public institutions.
Children raised and educated by the state will not question anything. It is just as John Dewey, known as the father of modern public education, said back in 1928 while praising Soviet education, "The great task of the school is to counteract and transform those domestic and neighborhood tendencies...the influence of the home and Church."
This program is eerily similar, though more gradual and pleasant sounding, to what happened to Soviet babies. The First Congress of Bolshevik workers said in 1918, "We must remove children from the crude influence of their families. We must take them over, and to speak frankly, nationalize them. From the first days of their lives they will be under the healthy influence of children's nurseries and schools." It did not work then and it will not work now.
We cannot let our government repeat the mistakes of history. The next elections are very important. Not only do we have to free the parents of America to raise the next generation, but we have to make it very clear to whom our children belong.
"Our 'children are not mere creatures of the state!
Leave Our Babies Alone!!
Karen R. Effrem M.D.
Maple River Education Coalition Board of Directors
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