Be Afraid: Government “Help” for the Children

The pre-school program based on Head Start that the Obama administration is pushing is “blatantly psycho-social indoctrination.”

By Mary Grabar | March 18, 2013

Ronald Reagan famously said, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.'”

The Obama administration wants to “help” Americans educate their children, beginning at birth. As Reagan warned, we should be terrified.

President Obama, in his State of the Union address, called for “preschool for all,” and even pre-preschool, or federally funded day care for birth to age 3, to “meet the needs of working families.” These programs would ostensibly “prepare children for the transition to preschool.” Of course, it wasn’t that long ago that preschool programs were promoted to “prepare children for the transition to kindergarten.”

Three days after the speech the press office announced “the White House’s Fact Sheet on the Administration’s plan for early childhood education.” The first objective was the much-publicized “Providing High-Quality Preschool for Every Child.” That includes “a new federal-state partnership to provide all low- and moderate-income four-year old children with high-quality preschool, while also expanding these programs to reach additional children from middle class families and incentivizing full-day kindergarten policies.” It is called an “investment,” of course, and is to be financed through “a cost-sharing model with states.”

The second objective, “Growing the Supply of Effective Early Learning Opportunities for Young Children,” includes “a significant investment in a new Early Head Start-Child Care partnership,” with competitive grants to support “communities that expand the availability of Early Head Start and child care providers.” Children to be served will range in age “from birth through age 3.”

Perhaps the most alarming, and least publicized, is “Extending and Expanding Evidence-Based, Voluntary Home Visiting.” The memo noted that “President Obama has already committed $1.5 billion to expand home visitation [“by nurses, social workers, and other professionals”] to hundreds of thousands of America’s most vulnerable children and families across all 50 states.”

The expansion of the “evidence-based home visiting initiative” is intended for “at-risk families” to promote “social-emotional development” and “school readiness.”

But questions come up: Who is “at risk”? How is “social-emotional development” determined? And what is “school readiness”?

One wonders, also, how “voluntary” these “home visiting programs” will be in the long run. As I noted in my recent article on the Association of Teacher Educators conference, public school teachers already are encouraged to visit students’ homes in order to “connect” to families. Some schools serve as 24-hour “community centers.”

Topping off the fact sheet was a quotation from Obama’s State of the Union address:

In states that make it a priority to educate our youngest children…studies show students grow up more likely to read and do math at grade level, graduate high school, hold a job, form more stable families of their own.  We know this works.  So let’s do what works and make sure none of our children start the race of life already behind.

What is interesting is that these “studies” are not named.

In fact, when one does look at the studies one learns that not only do the preschool programs not work, but they do harm. Dr. Karen Effrem, pediatrician and president of Education Liberty Watch, rebuts Obama’s claims in detail in a post titled, “State of the Union Statistics Mislead on Preschool Benefits.” In a telephone interview she said that “everything that Obama said is wrong, not just one or two things.” Effrem points to eight large-scale studies at places like MIT, Stanford, and the National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development that show that by kindergarten and first grade reading and math skills decline for these children. The reasons why such early exposure doesn’t help is twofold: “visual and auditory pathways are not mature enough” and children are not “emotionally ready” to be taken away from parents. Effrem claims that this is especially true of children from single-parent homes—those targeted by the government—because those children are “leaving the one remaining parent” they have.

To Obama’s claim that the “lack of access to preschool education can shadow [poor kids] for the rest of their lives,” the organization replies:

It is not the lack of preschool that “shadows” poor children. It is the lack of two parents. As we and many others have repeatedly stated, being from single parent families results in almost every bad social outcome that can be named – poor academic performance, crime, drug and alcohol abuse, early sexual activity, and suicide.

They cite the research of Dr. William Jeynes of the University of California at Santa Barbara who used data from the National Educational Longitudinal Survey “to examine the impact of student religious commitment and living in intact families on academic achievement among black and Hispanic 12th graders.” His study found that “Students with intact families and high levels of religiosity scored as well as all white students on most achievement measures and higher than their black and Hispanic counterparts without intact families or high religiosity.”

Columnist Robert Knight, too, has plenty of knowledge about such studies for he wrote a report in the 1990s on the High Scope/Perry Preschool Program in Ypsilanti, Michigan, which “differed greatly from a typical Head Start center.” Knight wrote in Townhall, “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.”

Knight also cited a recent Heritage Foundation report that noted that the Department of Health and Human Services “finished collecting data on Head Start in 2008 and issued findings in December 2012 although the study was dated October 2012.” The Heritage authors questioned the timing of the release and whether HHS “‘was trying to bury the findings in the report, which shows . . . that by third grade, the $8 billion Head Start program had little to no impact on cognitive, social, emotional, health, or parenting practices of parents.'” In fact, the program had harmful effects on a few measures.

So why, even with studies linked on government websites showing the harmful effects of such programs, does the administration tout universal pre-K and birth to 3 programs?

Early childhood is the “last bastion of parental control,” says Effrem. The pre-school program based on Head Start that the administration is pushing is “blatantly psycho-social indoctrination.” What the administration is doing in K-12 is being extended to younger ages, beginning with birth. Standards will be used to justify teaching three-year-olds about such things as gender identification and environmentalism. The K-12 Race-to-the-Top contest and Early Learning Challenge both are intended for the purpose of mental screening. Under the guise of “social and emotional preparedness” genetic data will be gathered. This is an extension of the data collection being implemented under the K-12 Common Core program, as discussed recently on the Glenn Beck program.

Like Common Core, these early education initiatives are tempting to certain Republicans, those that Effrem sees as being in the “corporate establishment.” They have formed an “unholy alliance” with progressives to push through initiatives that take away parental control. The “corporate establishment” violates constitutional principles and harms normal citizens in a number of ways, from insurance companies lobbying for exchanges under Obamacare and Chambers of Commerce promoting public funding for stadiums and light rail. Corporate style education profits many players, from textbook publishers to foundations, and produces a “compliant, industrialized team-playing corporate workforce.” (I made the same observation in my analysis of Common Core testing.)

Big business and big foundations stand to profit from such early childhood initiatives and so does the Democrat Party as it increases the size of a unionized teacher workforce to include preschool teachers.

The ones to suffer will be the children, as the real studies promoted by a pediatrician – and not a politician – reveal.

Mary Grabar, Ph.D., teaches English at Emory University in the Program in American Democracy and Citizenship. She recently founded the Dissident Prof Education Project, Inc., an education reform initiative that offers information and resources for students, parents, and citizens. The motto, “Resisting the Re-Education of America,” arose in part from her perspective as a very young immigrant from the former Communist Yugoslavia (Slovenia specifically). She writes extensively and is also a published poet and fiction writer.