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Senate Early Childhood Policy and Budget Division
Testimony by April Selenskikh, Parent
March 21, 2006
 Re: Senate File 3300:  Kindergarten Readiness and Parenting Education.
 Mr. Chairman, members of the committee:
Thank you for the opportunity to testify. My name is April Selenskikh and I am the mother of three children, aged 4, 2 and 7 months. I would like to address the topic of Parent Education and Kindergarten Readiness in S.F. 3300. Like many parents, I enrolled my boys in Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) hoping for a valuable educational and enrichment experience. Instead I discovered that Parenting Education harms families and children.
Parent Ed diminishes the authority of parents.
ECFE does not support "parents as their children's primary educator" but treats parents as pupils. We are given homework. We are monitored during play time. ECFE does not exist to learn from parents, but to impart knowledge, values, and attitudes to them, including how to parent. The concept of partnership between families and schools suggests equality of influence that should not exist. The school is a resource for my family and subservient to it, not the other way around.
ECFE teachers are not credible authorities.
What qualifies a person to teach parenting classes? Having children themselves and parenting them successfully or taking classes and be awarded a certificate? Most parents would agree that successful parenting principles must be taught by good parents and this is why traditionally we turn to our family, neighbors, and houses of worship for that advice. We want to be taught by people we know, whose children we know. More than the acquisition of a specific skill set; good parenting requires character traits such as patience, self-sacrifice and dedication. These values can not be effectively transmitted through a large educational bureaucracy. The other moms in my group chuckled at being taught how to parent when we several of us had three or more children. žI just come to have a break and chat with other moms, žone confided. "I just like to get out of the house." said another.
It is intrusive.
Our local ECFE contacted me immediately after the birth to my third child offering free dinner, a book, and infant parenting classes. I found this outreach intrusive and troubling. SF 3300 would expand these practices as noted in Section 7 "Educate Parents Partnership." As a parent, I do not want the state to contact me after the birth of my child or even worse at the hospital in order to provide parenting education. This assumes that we are incompetent, or worse a threat to our children and should only apply to a small percentage of families in crisis. Group homes attest to the abysmal failure produced when the state tries to be a parent.
ECFE presents one parenting philosophy as fact.
Most modern parents have read enough parenting books to be aware of the current controversies and opposing viewpoints. Demand or scheduled feedings?  Spock or Sears? Child-centered or parent led?  Despite differing theories, ECFE presents one theory of child development and parenting, without statistical support, nor a fair presentation of opposing views. There is no reference to the trends in parenting that may be popular for one generation and then discarded the next.
ECFE undermines traditional values. 
My ECFE teacher modeled confusing non-traditional gender roles for my young sons. My 4 year old was told to pretend that he was mom. My 2 year old was encouraged to play dress up in feminine clothing including high heels. Without being alarmist, I believe this was intentional on the behalf of the instructor. Our children were also taught to address the teachers by their first names. We sang songs about "many different kinds of families" alluding to controversial social issues.
Parents go to ECFE for their children's educational enrichment, not theirs
I went to ECFE for the benefit of my children, not to access parenting assistance. I have yet to meet a parent who does. An educational play date with mom in the next room is a strong selling point for the program. If ECFE were more honest about the centrality of the parenting Ed the advertisements would say "Do you need help parenting?" Instead Minnesota ECFE advertises its mission as being to "strengthen families and support all parents in providing the best possible environment for the healthy growth and development of children." It is not marketed by saying "Do you need help?" or "Let us to teach you how to raise your kids."
Parenting Ed shuns moral absolutes.
It prefers the concepts of "choice", "consequences" and "limits." Parents are encouraged to view misbehavior as "testing limits", " expressing emotion," or "developmental phases."  In seeking to avoid shame based or abusive parenting, ECFE goes to the other extreme, refusing to label behavior as being "wrong." Junior biting someone is merely "expressing anger inappropriately." Moral absolutes are discouraged even when confronting harmful, anti-social, or dangerous behavior.
Kindergarten Screening -Subjective and Anti-boy
 I asked my son's teachers what he needed to know in order to be prepared for kindergarten. Should he be able to count to 100? Write his alphabet? Read simple words?  I never got a straight answer. Reading SF 3300, I    have learned that kindergarten readiness is based on a highly subjective assessment that equates social skills to academic performance.  It favors an emphasis on "social development" that is biased against normal boy behavior. Imagine the following scenario:
Junior runs around the room while the girls are reading quietly. He throws a truck at his friend.  During recess he splashes in the mud, getting other children dirty. He shows little interest in reading and is fascinated with trucks and trains.
 According to the Kindergarten Screening Assessment this child fails to master žself control, "interaction with others," and "showing appreciation for books and reading." Whether or not he is able to read, writing, or tie his shoes would prevent him from failing.
 As the parent of a child with autism, I am sensitive to the need for access to special Ed services for children who need it. However the Kindergarten Screening Assessment puts boys at a disadvantage compared to their more verbal, socially adept female classmates. It will funnel normal boys into expensive special education programs unnecessarily.
 Combining behavior assessment, socialization and academics is not a new educational philosophy. But it is a dangerous one. It is what my husband experienced in Soviet Russia.  If you'd like to see the outcome of that policy, I encourage you to visit Russia today and witness the broken families, anti-social violent youth gangs, and despair. We should learn from them and refuse to allow   "family education" and "behavior based assessments" to become codified in American education.
 The State must not be allowed to parent our kids in the name of "Family Education" because the State cannot love our children- only a parent can. The State can only use them to produce a commodity- human capital. Minnesota parents do not need schools to teach us how to parent, from birth or at any other time. The proposed Kindergarten Screening and Parenting Education are to harmful children, families, and ultimately society. I therefore urge you to protect Minnesota's Children and Families and vote "No" to S.F. 3300.
Thank you.
April Selenskikh
Email to aprilbrax@yahoo.com

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