Wednesday, March 04, 2009


It's clear that the Millard Public Schools just had a "facilitator" in the house, manipulating a "strategic planning team" into "spontaneously" coming up with the hugely expensive, previously-decided "changes" that the big-spending ed bureaucracy has already said it wants.

Sigh. School management and tax allocation by deception, once again. And in these economic hard times. Is there no shame any more?

There's no other reason to foolishly plow still MORE money into ineffective, unwarranted early-childhood education "programs" that don't work and are, in fact, obviously dumbing down children's literacy skills at an alarming rate.

Millard would be much better off to encourage parents to get their kids scribbling and drawing in preschool, and listening to stories at home and at their child-care situations, than feather-bedding the school-based early childhood bureaucracy.

If you want to set kids up to hit the ground running when they get to the taxpayer-provided K-12 educations that are their birthright, you need to keep them OUT of the school-based early childhood bureaucracy -- and fight its expansion, because it's dumbing our kids down.

Instead, these school-based pre-k programs are job programs for educators, experiments in social engineering, amateur psychiatry, amateur medical diagnosis, and group dynamics, offering all kinds of hands-on play experiences and everything BUT what kids need to be better at reading, writing and arithmetic once they hit real school.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not for academic-style, workaholic, worksheet-driven preschool, either. And I can see that the 3% or so of the preschool population that really is in need of special education services can benefit from some preschool programming, to get them ready.

It's just that the vast majority of the kids do NOT need those preschool services, and the vast majority of children are ALREADY coming into our kindergartens knowing their ABC's, their colors, and their numbers to 10.

We're developing a huge bureaucracy to serve about 3% of the population, even though it acts to dumb down the other 97%, but to justify the expense, we're pretending that it's actually GOOD for kids.

It's clear that hands-on play is great for the preschool set. It's just that, in school settings, they tend to make it "mini-school" -- instead of the unstructured, creative, unpressured, unevaluated, unguided play that it needs to be.

And, from the pre-k programs I've seen, they minimize scribbling and coloring, I guess because those "products" don't look fancy enough for the adults. But the fact is, it's the PROCESS of scribbling and coloring that sets little kids up for good handwriting, with better eye-hand cooordination, fine-motor muscle strength and so forth. But I've yet to meet a school-based pre-k teacher who "gets it" about that. Sheesh! What are they TEACHING in ed schools today?!?

I was part of strategic planning efforts in two public school districts. In the words of an ancient scholar, it's a crock. Strategic planning is a propaganda device designed to get citizens to sign off on new spending that doesn't improve academic outcomes for K-12 students, but just grows the budget.

They were crazy about adding pre-k programs . . . until I asked "why?" Ask them where the evidence is that it makes kids succeed in school, and they gape at you. BECAUSE THERE ISN'T ANY.

In fact, there's evidence to the contrary: that the more out-of-home "programs" small children attend, the WORSE they do academically in school, the WORSE they behave in school, and the WORSE they feel about themselves, on down the road!

You'll note that the 35 people on the Millard committee were "administrators, school board members, teachers, students and Millard-area residents," according to The World-Herald.

Right. Stacked! When I served on a similar committee in another district, early on in the process I asked everyone on that strategic planning team who was NOT making money from district operations to please raise a hand. Mine, and one other person's, were the only hands that went up in the room. Shortly thereafter, I quit, disappointed in the blatant nepotism.

The announcement by Millard that the district intended to add computers, try for a bond issue to add on to various schools, and expand early-childhood programs, was equally disappointing, epsecially in these financial times.

Note that our daughter is regarded as pretty much the best reader in the third grade of her public school right now. Well, guess what? She went to very little preschool -- a couple of mornings a week -- and half-day kindergarten in a Christian school. That's in stark contrast to a taxpayer-provided, in-school pre-k program with college graduates "teaching" her, and full-day kindergarten such as all the public schools think they need to have.

She also attended that school for a full day in first grade, until we were sure that she was reading well. In contrast to all the public schools we could find in the Omaha metropolitan area, that private school was smart enough to teach reading with phonics, and took time to show the kiddies how to hold their pencils correctly, how to form their letters right, and other basic skills of a decent primary education.

So she gets to the public school, where they spend well over twice as much per pupil per year, and the kids have had another half-year of school with that full-day kindergarten and many of them had taxpayer-provided preschool, too . . . and yet, mysteriously, few of her classmates in third grade are even close to her reading, writing and spelling skills.

Also, from what I've observed, many of them aren't even holding their pencils right and have funky-looking handwriting that produces text at a significantly slower rate than Maddy can write.

Sure, I know, these kids will be composing on a typewriter and not on paper. But it's still a disaster. Because they didn't learn handwriting correctly and they can't get their thoughts down on paper very fast, now that their brain plasticity is slowing down as they near age 10, their word attack skills are less, their vocabularies are smaller, their grasp of the spelling rules is less, and they are doomed to compose text at a far slower rate than a child who was taught to read and write with phonics.

Their brains literally are "stuck" at a pre-literate spot . . . and all of this happened at taxpayer expense . . . and Millard wants to throw even more money at taking our kids down in that awful direction!

What's to be done about this? Talk to teachers, administrators, school-board members, state senators, and every taxpayer you can find. Surely, once people "get it" about the damage that more spending and more pre-k in schools will do, the "strategic plan" will gain better strategy . . . and start giving kids the simple, inexpensive academic skills that they need.

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Well, bravissimo, Susan! This "rant" as you call it, should be reprinted in the World-Herald and read by every concerned taxpayer and citizen. There ARE two sides to the early childhood education issue, although you wouldn't know it from listening to the mostly liberal educational establishment and articles in the World-Herald and Omaha.com. and the TV news shows. The mainstream media should surely interview you if they really want to get both sides of this big issue before the public, as good journalists are supposed to do.
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