Tuesday, March 22, 2005
A MOM GETS FED UP OVER ROBBING THE CRADLE IN NORTH PLATTE
A story last week in www.NorthPlatteBulletin.com reported that a mother of two grown children, a longtime taxpayer, spoke to the North Platte Board of Education about “mission creep” in the public schools.
She said it is saddling taxpayers with all-day kindergarten and now a proposed subsidized preschool program in the North Platte Public Schools.
She quoted district figures on state aid to education for all-day kindergarten. Surprisingly, the State of Nebraska provides North Platte with $1.2 million more than its reported extra cost of all-day kindergarten.
Technically, then, all-day kindergarten is a “money-maker” for the district – a cash cow. And yet there’s a hubbub in North Platte because nearly 50 of the little kindergartners aren’t cutting the mustard, even with all-day programming, to move on to first grade.
What’s the district’s proposed solution? Not the obvious one: fix their ineffective kindergarten curriculum. Nooooo. Instead, they want to ADD to the money and bureaucracy already in place in early childhood programs and kindergarten in the public schools, even though they aren’t working . . . to overfeed the cash cow even though it isn’t giving much milk.
Moooooooove over, cost-efficiency and common sense.
This is a good example of the trend in public education to turn toward “baby ed” to get more revenue streaming in, and more jobs for union members. But the evidence is clear: more time out of a parent’s care and in a large, chaotic, overstructured environment with other little kids, not your parent, as role models, is bad for little kids both cognitively and behaviorally speaking.
We know from bona fide research that formal preschool has no effect on IQ or later academic achievement . . . and that all-day kindergarten, which in Nebraska is almost always based on Whole Language techniques instead of phonics, denies kids early literacy, dumbs them down, and exposes them to twice as much boring, inappropriate time away from home as half-day kindergarten did, at twice the expense to taxpayers.
So who on earth thinks all-day kindergarten and subsidized preschool from the cradle onward, are good ideas?
According to a 40-page report earlier this year to the Nebraska Board of Education, “Nebraska Early Childhood Policy Study,” the state’s education bureaucracy sure does.
‘Course, the “leadership team” for this study were all union wonks, school district employees, educational organization chieftains and employees of educational bureaucracies – except for two lone parents. An avalanche of educrats, in other words.
So why are we not surprised that the “solutions” presented by this “leadership team” are . . . drum roll, please . . . more money and bureaucracy for the public schools to build their early childhood education edifices? (See the report, www.nde.state.ne.us/ech/ECPolicyStudy_2.pdf)
The report indicated that 67 percent of Nebraska kids were in full-day kindergarten in the 2003-04 school year, and counting. Meanwhile, there were 28 grants operating for subsidized, in-school, early-childhood programs around the state, with state tax dollars subsidizing up to 50 percent of the cost.
The verbiage in the report is chilling: they talk about getting universal government preschool, home visits by social workers, and all that other social engineering gobbledygook; they talk about needing to build a “collective will” to get this done in Nebraska, creating a “seamless continuum” of child care and preschool, and “embracing diversity” to make it really great.
So the beat goes on to institutionalize childhood as in the old Soviet Union, even in the American heartland like North Platte . . . and even with the utter absence of evidence that preschool helps any children except the basket-case disadvantaged kids who are already supposedly served by the federally-funded Head Start program.
Meanwhile, the push toward free preschool for all threatens to destroy the options for private child care for all but the richest parents. That includes church-based child care where the kiddies can fold their hands and say grace before meals, put on a real Christmas pageant, and be accepted and encouraged for whatever stage of development they may be in, instead of becoming grist for the standardized mills that our public schools are becoming.
In contrast to private preschools, government preschool is driven by nationalized standards and assessments, forced compliance with government specs to obtain accreditation, and tight reins on teacher credentials so that preschool staff will be indoctrinated with the politicized curriculum pushed by the National Association for the Education of Young Children.
The NAEYC pushed a two-year Child Development Associate’s degree through the nation’s community colleges that is going to be increasingly required. But it is based on radical, politicized ideas that are absolutely head-scratchingly wrong for itty bitties. Examples: embracing homosexuality; making anatomically-correct drawings; learning “religious diversity” by play-acting witchcraft with the witches as good, not bad; and so on.
What’s really crazy is that this stuff doesn’t even work. Note that European countries have had government preschool for years and years, and yet America’s younger kids moosh theirs on standardized tests.
The experts admit that the biggest subsidized preschool program in the U.S., Head Start, has cost this nation more than $44 billion since the 1960s but has created no discernible improvement in the academic achievement of the disadvantaged kids it is supposed to serve. (See articles by Darcy Olsen on Head Start and universal preschool on www.cato.org)
As is happening all over the country, school officials in North Platte are saying that kids are coming to kindergarten “not ready” for school. That violates the first goal of the federal takeover of education’s enabling act, Goals 2000, and its evil spawn, No Child Left Behind.
Of course, that’s balderdash: nine out of 10 kids are ready for kindergarten in terms of pre-literacy skills, number sense, good health and eagerness to learn. That’s according to studies of tens of thousands of young children all across the land.
And making them spend more time, not less, in the company of these boneheaded government nannies who refuse to teach them to read, write and figure, even though they’re ready, is the exact opposite thing that needs to be done.
Doesn’t anybody remember those recent studies that showed that the more time small children spend in structured, out-of-home day care, the more aggressive, defiant and disobedient they are later on, in school?
Doesn’t anyone remember the evidence that family characteristics, particularly a good relationship with one’s mother, are the best indicator of future academic success?
Doesn’t anyone know that reading experts like Jim Trelease (www.trelease-on-reading.com) affirm that the single most important thing a parent can do for a young child is to read aloud to that child lots and lots? But school-based preschool and all-day kindergarten rob a child of the priceless hours of “lap time” necessary for that to happen.
What kids need is a proper kindergarten experience – just a half-day – and the rest of the time either at home getting reared by a loving mom and dad, or in a small, unstressful, homelike, quality child-care setting such as a child-care home or small center, where they can keep from getting overstressed, overstimulated and overtired.
Schools would do a lot better correcting their off-base kindergarten curriculum than doubling the time they’re spending on the wrong things, anyway. Proper reading, writing, speaking, listening and spelling instruction, based on phonics, can be done in a big 20 minutes a day.
In schools with phonics-only kindergartens, 100 percent of the kids are reading and writing mighty fine by Christmas of the kindergarten year. You see that only in some private kindergartens, since they’re the only ones that didn’t kill phonics in the 1960s and ‘70s. In schools that use Whole Language, which is most of the public kindergartens in Nebraska, you get a gigantic mess like North Platte has, with herds of kids not reading and not ready for first grade.
North Platte has chosen Whole Language over phonics, and a “child-centered” approach, which is a preschool approach, over the traditional teacher-directed, instructionally-based but play-oriented introduction to academics which used to characterize a good kindergarten.
North Platte’s answer is outrageous: instead of going back to systematic, intensive, explicit phonics and a half-day program, which is what kindergartners need, the district is expanding its all-day no-good, very-bad kindergarten program, adding staff, and looking in to also offering a “developmental kindergarten” next year.
That “solution” from the government nannies would make these poor little kids who already feel like failures go through not one but TWO years of lousy kindergarten – the same old, same old stuff that isn’t making them literate and numerate NOW, but somehow, by immersing them in it for twice as much time and at twice the cost, it’ll be better for them.
Where are my milk and cookies? I need ‘em, and a nap mat, pronto. This is so sad, I might even have to suck my thumb as I contemplate how easy it would be to do kindergarten right . . . but how powerful the forces amassed against it are . . . and how unlikely it is that North Platte or any other big district will be able to get it right any time soon.
Wednesday: A Minnesota physician plays hardball on preschool politics.
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