- The Washington Times - Monday, February 18, 2013

What’s the real message behind Barack Obama’s call in his State of the Union speech for taxpayer-funded “universal” preschool and his trip to a Georgia preschool last Thursday for photo ops?

It’s that the government wants to get its hands on our children even earlier.

From the time children are 5 or 6 years old up through their senior year of high school, government schools run by left-wing teachers’ unions have them at least seven hours a day, five days a week during most of the year.

They use that time to teach them just enough English and math to pass standardized tests, while force-feeding them a secular, progressive mindset that views American capitalism as a world problem and more government as the solution. They also teach them Kinsey-inspired sex education that corrupts kids and has helped to spike the number of sexually transmitted infections to more than 20 million annually.

Finally, they impart history in a way that implies that as soon as we are rid of America’s pesky Christian heritage, if we ever had one, the sooner we can achieve “equality.” I say all this fully aware that there are many dedicated teachers trying their best to convey knowledge and even morality in an increasingly failing system. This isn’t about them, as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie made clear when he took on the teachers’ unions.

Preschools vary in quality and outcome. In the better ones, real education occurs, such as learning the alphabet. In the best ones, children learn that they are unique beings created in the image of God by a loving Creator. They have souls, not just body parts. In other preschools, it’s really day care with an educational facade. Speaking of facades, let’s take a closer look at Head Start, the giant federal experiment in early childhood education that Mr. Obama wants to expand.

Back in the 1990s, I wrote a report on Head Start for the Heritage Foundation. I was shocked to learn that claims for its effectiveness rested almost entirely on a longitudinal study of 123 low-income black children in the High Scope-Perry Preschool Program in Ypsilanti, Mich., which differed greatly from a typical Head Start center. Armed with Perry data, Head Start backers intoned year after year that “studies show” Head Start will eliminate poverty, depression and even acne as we know it.

Head Start has gobbled more than $180 billion in taxpayer dollars since its debut as part of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society in 1965. An obvious clue that it’s been oversold as an educational marvel is that it’s run by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), not the Department of Education.

A recent Heritage Foundation report by Lindsey Burke and David Muhlhausen notes that HHS finished collecting data on Head Start in 2008 and issued findings in December 2012, although the study was dated October 2012. “The timing of the release,” they write, “raises questions about whether HHS was trying to bury the findings in the report, which shows, among other outcomes, that by third grade, the $8 billion Head Start program had little to no impact on cognitive, social-emotional, health, or parenting practices of participants. On a few measures, access to Head Start had harmful effects on children.”

The Heritage researchers further said, “In 2010, HHS released the findings of the Head Start Impact Study, which tracked the progress of three- and four-year-olds entering Head Start through kindergarten and first grade. Overall, Head Start had little to no positive effects… .”

House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, in a Tweet-worthy moment, told the Associated Press that giving the federal government more control over early childhood education is “a good way to screw it up.”

Meanwhile, the education establishment (“the blob” as former Secretary of Eduction William Bennett calls it) applauded Mr. Obama’s gambit. Steve Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers, gushed that this was “one of the most important education initiatives, maybe, since Brown v. Board of Education,” the 1954 Supreme Court ruling that ended school segregation.

He stopped just short of claiming that the estimated $10 billion to $25 billion program would halt global warming and bring peace to the Middle East. Unlike many progressives who pretend their current goal is the end game, Mr. Barnett tipped his hand. He told The Washington Post that grabbing the kids at age 4 is a precursor to universal preschool education starting at age 3 or 2. “It makes sense from a purely practical point of view to consolidate 4-year-olds before you move on to 3,” he said.

Next, they’ll be promoting “universal infant care.” Why not? The blob honestly believes that its “experts” are smarter than parents. Pay no attention to the growing evidence that home-schooled children excel in virtually every discipline.

Government-directed education is the ultimate progressive solution. As The Washington Post put it, Mr. Obama’s proposal “has lifted the hopes of economists and liberals who have long considered early childhood education the best way to help close the gap between the rich and the poor.”

No, it’s not. The best way to ensure educational success is to shore up marriage, not to create more government programs that supplant the functions of the family. Mr. Obama might want to look at studies that track academic, psychological and economic outcomes for children raised in various households. He would find that the data overwhelmingly favor children that have a mother and a father, the tireless efforts of many a devoted single parent notwithstanding.

If you want to know more about why Christians, Jews and other parents should consider removing their children from government schools, not put them there even sooner, I recommend Bruce Shortt’s book, “The Harsh Truth About Public Schools” or the documentary and book “IndoctriNation: Public Schools and the Decline of Christianity,” by Colin Gunn and Joaquin Fernandez.

Be forewarned: You won’t be able to say later that you just didn’t know.

Robert Knight is a senior fellow for the American Civil Rights Union and a columnist for The Washington Times.

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