Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Response to the Christian Science Monitor' View on Universal Preschool.

Dear Christian Science Monitor:
I was a bit shocked to read your highly one-sided endorsement of "universal preschool” Universal preschool, universal benefits
, as if there were simply no down-side to the concept.
Your article cites a research study done by the “High/Scope” foundation in support of the supposed benefits of preschool. It seems you neglected to mention a few important facts about High/Scope:
• High/Scope is the producer of preschool programs and as such stands to benefit enormously by widespread public financing of such programs.
• In the 1960s High/Scope was the producer of an elementary school program called “Cognitive Curriculum” that failed disastrously in the federal government’s long-term test of nine competing curricula to see the summary click here.
; this program was so awful that it actually reduced the performance of students in already-dysfunctional districts.
• High/Scope is well known for twisting the facts to suit its own purposes. In an effort to discredit the winning competing curriculum in the aforementioned study, High/Scope published a fraudulent analysis of the long-term effects of that curriculum (and in fact still publishes it today at Journals.sped.org.

); the rebuttal to this travesty can be found at darkwing.uoregon.edu
Considering High/Scope’s decades-long slavish dedication to failed ideology in childhood education and its record of perennial failure when measured by standards other than its own, I would have to say that your use of this organization as a reference calls your own credibility into question.
Secondly you cite the supposed success of Head Start, a program whose efficacy is highly touted by those who have a significant financial interest in its continued funding (including High/Scope). However if we read a more independent government-sponsored meta-study by the RAND corporation, we see that even the government that provides the funding has no clear idea of whether our investment of hundreds of millions of dollars per year has been worthwhile RAND corporation
Meanwhile it seems to me that there are some quite definite downsides that will certainly come to pass if we should adopt publicly funded preschool.
Almost the entire current network of private-sector preschool providers will of course be demolished by this move. In place of the wide variety of competing independent providers we have now, we will see an enlargement of the public school monopoly - an enormously hungry and powerful organization that is famous for its lack of interest in suiting the individual tastes and needs of its “customers.”
Implementation of universal preschool will of course create an even larger support base among its beneficiaries, namely the parents who will have their children managed at public expense. This even-larger constituency will make it even harder than it is now for taxpayers to fight against the eternal tax increases demanded by this utterly inefficient and corrupt system.
And of course all universal preschool will empower the teacher’s unions even further, bringing in more union dues from all those preschool workers who will soon discover that they must now “pay to play” and carry a union card in order to keep their jobs. Along with unionization will come, of course, all of the union-oriented malaise that has afflicted the public schools for almost half a century now (a discussion of that alone would fill another letter entirely).
Another predictable result is that the use of preschool services will undoubtedly rise dramatically. No doubt this is wonderful news for people in the preschool business. But I don’t think it’s good news for the kids who would have enjoyed the company of their mothers for another couple of years, and whose mothers would never otherwise have considered dumping them in someone else’s lap.
To suit the insatiable monetary appetite of the public school administration and its unions, eventually preschool will be made mandatory. Already the people who stand to make billions off of this policy are trotting out “experts” whose job is to convince mothers that they’re doing damage to their children by keeping them home. But soon those mothers won’t need convincing … instead they’ll instead need some really creative excuses to keep the truant officers from grabbing their 3-year-olds out of their hands.
This expansion of the power of the already utterly mediocre and over-funded public school system is a travesty that we’ll be regretting for decades to come.
David Ziffer

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