HAGELIN: What families need is more nurturing and less meddling
Culture challenge of the week: Government-funded preschool education
Taxpayers, are you ready for another of President Obama’s expansive “benefit” plans? This time, the intrusion on your family life is focused on your toddler.
Mr. Obama is boasting that his administration will expand — and fund — access to “high-quality preschool” for “every single child in America.” Talk about a nanny state.
We all know the government doesn’t have the money for another expensive plan. Even if it did, government-funded preschool is a bad idea.
America’s public education system is shameful in most areas, but the president says more of the same — and at younger ages — is what we need. It defies logic. Putting children into a broken system even earlier is a mistake from which they might not recover.
Mr. Obama praises the success of Georgia and Oklahoma’s preschools, where universal access is guaranteed and preschools boast of consistently high attendance rates.
But mere attendance does not secure lasting benefits. Research fails to support the claim that sending a child to preschool is better than keeping a child at home. In many cases, early preschool has a negative effect on a child’s learning.
Billions of dollars have been poured into the Head Start program since 1965, but a 2010 Head Start impact study shows that the program’s success doesn’t match up to the taxpayer money invested.
“Overall, Head Start had little to no positive effects for children who were granted access,” states an analysis by Lindsey Burke and David B. Muhlhausen of the Heritage Foundation. “For the four-year-old group, compared to similarly situated children not allowed access to Head Start, access to the program failed to raise the cognitive abilities of participants on 41 measures. Specifically, the language skills, literacy, math skills, and school performance of the participating children failed to improve.”
In addition, 3-year-olds in the Head Start program entered kindergarten with fewer math skills than children who skipped preschool entirely.
The lack of academic “bang for the buck” in preschool programs is bad enough, but even worse is the reality that a government-funded preschool is sure to indoctrinate children with false notions of marriage and family when they are still babes. Do we really want our 3- and 4-year-olds to come home talking about two mommies?
That’s what we can expect.
Government-funded preschool does help low-income families in which both parents work. But if free baby-sitting is what we’re trying to accomplish, then I’m sure we can do it for far less than the $3 billion to $20 billion a year that federally funded preschool is predicted to cost.
You don’t have to be a cynic to wonder whether Mr. Obama’s gambit is really about increasing support from teachers unions, voters on public assistance and others from his political base. In the process, he once again will increase the size of government, generate more unsatisfied teachers in public education and pull attendance from private preschool institutions run by churches, communities and other private educators, and some little children from an extra year or two at home with Mom.
How to save your family: Don’t let the government do your job
Don’t let the government have even more control over your family. When children are 3 and 4 years old, they soak up new skills and ideas like sponges. Their best teachers are Mom and Dad. More important are the hugs, stability, kindness, values and love from their families that toddlers need in large doses every day. Our sons and daughters don’t need to spend extra hours in government-sponsored programs, learning life skills from their playmates and basic values from government employees.
While not every mother (or father) can stay home, our laws and federal programs ought to encourage parents to invest more time, not less, in their children.
The bottom line should be obvious: Mom and Dad are better than Aunt Nanny State and Uncle Sam Sitter. Give your children more of you.
• Rebecca Hagelin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.