Utopian Ideas

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Michael Barone:

Obama keeps talking about corporate jets because it tests well in polls.

And that’s the reason, I think, he keeps talking about universal preschool, not just for disadvantaged children.

Polls show that large majorities of Americans would be willing to have more government money spent for preschool for disadvantaged children. The impulse to help adorable but needy little kids is very strong.

Unfortunately, the evidence that preschool programs do any permanent good for such children is exceedingly weak.

Preschool advocates point to a 1960s program in Ypsilanti, Mich., and a 1970s North Carolina program called Abecedarian. Research showed those programs produced lasting gains in learning.

But no one has been able to replicate the success of these very small programs staffed by unusually dedicated people. Mass programs like Head Start staffed by more ordinary people don’t work as well.

Kids in such programs seem to make no perceptible lasting gains. That’s too bad, because disadvantaged kids need help.

So why is Obama emphasizing universal preschool, which would cost a lot more than preschool for the disadvantaged? The reason, I suspect, is that you would have to hire lots more credentialed teachers, which means you would get lots more teacher union members.

Teacher union leaders would love to see more dues money coming in, and to channel more to the Democratic Party.

To my suspicious eye, the preschool proposal doesn’t make much sense as policy, but it makes a lot of sense as politics.


I’m not in agreement with Michael Barone, particularly in regard to the value of early childhood education. But that is not the point of this post. I want to talk about one of my utopian ideas of which I was rather proud.

Any parent can tell you that one of the biggest obstacles to working and raising kids is reliable, quality, affordable daycare. If you have three or more kids you can find yourself paying more in daycare than you make from working.

At the same time we have problems with illiteracy and declining test scores compared to the rest of the industrialized world. But we have lots of trained teachers and an educational infrastructure and bureaucracy. Why not go big instead of go home?

Imagine if our children could start universal public preschool as soon as they were potty-trained. Combine that with expanded before and after school programs so that kids could be dropped off at 7:30 in the morning and picked up as late as 5:30 in the evening. Make that effective twelve months a year, Monday thru Friday and excluding major holidays. Part of the program would be optional and part of it mandatory, with an exception for private and home-schooled kids.

Think how much more our kids could learn if they entered the educational system around age three and the length of both the school day and school year were significantly increased. We could add back a lot of programs like art, sports and music that have gotten the axe in recent decades.

I acknowledge that there would be lots of bugs to work out, both practical and political. The paranoid right would freak out for sure. But we have the infrastructure and bureaucracy already in place, so we would need only to expand it, not create a new one.

Like I said, it’s a utopian idea. At the very least it would do no harm to the kids and would certainly benefit working parents. Existing daycare providers would take a hit, but many of them could more over into the expanded job openings at their local schools.

Once upon a time I was rather proud of the idea. Not so much these days.

The real problem isn’t the idea, it’s the execution. A massive expansion of our educational system would cost a buttload of money. And not just to get it started – it would cost us a buttload of money every year. And they would be unionized government employees, which are the most expensive kind of employees out there.

How much money can we afford to spend on education? In a utopia money would be no problem, but we live in the real world. This is an era of limits and we can’t afford perfection. We need to forget about all the cool things we could do and worry about what we need to do. So how much education can we afford to pay for? We need to figure that out and plan accordingly.


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About Myiq2xu™

Peaceful coexistence or mutually assured destruction. Your choice.
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29 Responses to Utopian Ideas

  1. wmcb says:

    A big part of the problem is that people are rightly loathe to approve more big programs when we have shit like THIS going on in Capitol Hill:

  2. driguana says:

    Love the pic…always one little smart alec kid in a group….years ago it was me…glad to see there are still others…!!

  3. Somebody says:

    Well put me down as part of the paranoid right. It sounds very, very nanny state to me. Hell why bother being parents at all??? Just let the kids become wards of the state. The indoctrination process would be so much easier then comrade.

    I agree we can’t afford this. The reason some preschool programs struggle and beneficial results of some studies are not duplicated is because of the parents. It’s not that preschool is magical, it’s that most parents that enroll their kids in preschool are involved parents looking to help their child gain an educational advantage. That’s the missing piece of the puzzle with head start. Yes, there are some other issues invloved too, but the parents are the critical piece.

    The same goes for all the various magical, fad things that will make your child smarter……..behind them all are active, engaged parents.

    While I’m on my soap box……..making the school day longer isn’t magical either. In fact in some ways it could be detrimental, when exactly are kids supposed to actually be kids?

    I have 3 children, my oldest two are pushing 30 and my 3rd is 13. My older two were educated in public schools and they’ve done quite well. They were always honor roll students and ended up on scholarships, etc. I was actively involved in their schools and in fact walked away from a political position. I told you all that to tell you this, I have been a strong advocate for public education and the improvement of public education for decades.

    Life brings changes and mine was no exception. I suddenly found myself caring for two disabled seniors, one terminally ill AND pregnant. So my life focus changed. Shortly after my youngest was school age she was diagnosed with leukemia. She ended up being home schooled because that is what was best for her situation. My home school experience has completely changed my perspective, it forced me outside of the box you might say and I am so glad it did! You have no idea how much time is wasted daily.

    I do think we need to totally rethink education, but I’m not so sure our 20th century model is right approach.

    That’s my two cents, but hey I’ve already admitted to being part of the paranoid right!!

    • piper says:

      You’re so right. My experience is good teachers and involved parents make the difference. Too much time now is spent on ‘behavior’ instead of academics.

    • I’ve shared this video here before, but your comment reminded me of its usefulness to the present conversation.

      The problem with expanding to universal preschool before we’ve addressed existing issues in education is that the system as designed has outlived its usefulness. We have a 19th century design supported by a 19th century-minded professional class. Both our education system and our union-oriented ideas now stand in the way of progress.

    • Somebody says:

      Back on my soap box, as if anybody cares, LOL!

      To elaborate there is a tremendous amount of time wasted daily in our public school on bureaucratic BS. Large segments of our education establishment has been taken over by the PC police and by worse. Don’t even get me started on the rash of projects and experiments some asshole sitting in some ivory tower faculty lounge comes up with……..when in actuality they’ve never seen the inside of a public school classroom or if they have it was for a five minute tour. Some of the textbooks…..OY!

      There are some phenomenal educators out there, really there are. I’ve had the good fortune to be part of an assessment team, so I’ve spent quite a bit of time in a variety of classrooms. Ditto being involved with a committee to select the teacher of the year, truly some inspiring teachers out there. BUT……there are also some jackholes out there at all levels of our educational systems.

      There need to be changes without a doubt. Technology holds a lot of possibilities, but I’m not so sure we can take advantage of the best possibilities within the structure of our current system.

      OK……that was definitely more than my two cents, so I’ll be quiet now.

  4. Have given it a considerable amount of thought. And have come to the conclusion that warehousing toddlers is not working out. Just my opinion mind you. But institutionalizing every child past potty training?
    My daughter started Kindergarten knowing her letters, numbers, colors and how to print her name. She was put into a group that got to learn sign language and Spanish. So the others could catch up.
    What the hell? These kids never watched Sesame Street in their day care facilities? Or at home?
    I agree there needs to be more affordable day care for working parents- but I sure the hell would not want to be forced to send my child to a cookie cutter curriculum center.

  5. Oh- meant to say my Mom was a Head Start teacher for a few years. She gave it up and opened her own daycare. Why? Because the ptb did stupid shit like tell the Head Start teachers they had to serve the entire meal at once and if little Johnny decided to eat only the dessert- well that was just hunky dory. Never mind the dumb ass lack of disciplinary measures- no child shall ever be punished!
    She successfully ran her own day care for a lot of years after that- and all her “students” went to kindergarten knowing their numbers, letters, colors and how to print their names. They also knew how to share, take turns and use their magic words. lol

  6. wmcb says:

    Have to get ready to go to Costco now. Because Conspicuous Bourgeois American Consumption. Or possibly cheap toilet paper. Could be that, too.

    Check in later. Good thread!

  7. HELENK says:

    in our home situation my husband and I worked different shifts so one of us would be with the kids rather than have them with babysitters. Now that was not all the time, sometimes we did have to use them depending on my job.
    I remember thinking that we send our kids to school wanting to learn and excited to go. but after a couple of years it becomes a chore to them. If the parents get involved in the teaching of children and make it so that they want to learn and excited to see what is next the will learn.will grow
    Right now every thing I read and see, seems to make home school a much better choice for kids or a charter school for those who can not home school. Public education has gone down the drain and is cheating our kids today. Why would anyone want to sent their kids earlier to learn less.
    I remember teachers complaining about sesame street and how the kids expect entertainment while learning.
    go back to the old way where kids were put into classes that were divided by the learning skills. example kids who already knew there letters and could write be in one class with lessons that when from there. kids who did not know these things yet, put into a class where they could learn them.
    one of the main problems that has to be change is this “feel good” and we can not hurt the little darling’s feelings. Why not encourage them to be proud of themselves by their accomplishing something. It is more real.

    no putting kids into ” public education” today at a younger age has no real advantages for the kids or the parent

    • myiq2xu says:

      When mandatory education first started, the alternative to school was work. Kids worked full time on farms and in factories. Kids did not play all day long.

      • HELENK says:

        one of the reasons that schools were closed for the summer was so that they could work the farms.
        look at the timing of spring vacation, planting time. The school year used to start after harvest

      • Somebody says:

        Nobody is suggesting they be allowed to play all day long. However, at two or three…..yes they should be able to play most of their day.

        Play is also an important part of learning.

  8. olivia says:

    I guess I’m in the ‘Somebody’ to some degree – with a heavy helping of Lola.

    The idea of housing kids from 7-5 (or more) seems almost cruel unless you’re preparing an army (of something).

    I get that daycare is expensive and not very good most of the time… hence the reason that maybe you don’t have 3 or 4 unless you’ve worked out the dynamics – and are willing to live with the consequences and responsibilities you will now have – not to mention the complete sacrificing of YOUR life and ambitions.

    We are in such a ‘ME’ society now – what ‘I’ want to do, what I want to see on TV, look at ME on FaceTwitterGram…. I cannot imagine how these people will ever care about the kids they have – and yet they WILL, they have to, it’s the future, Time Marches On…. they’ll probably facetwittergram their kids so they too can be self-gratified with themselves – and then… just maybe… these kids will rebel (like all kids do), and decide their parents are exactly the self-absorbed wackos they themselves don’t want to be.

    My Utopia is living long enough to see it.

    • jeffhas says:

      Hey! – how did that come up as Olivia? – oh, I typod – well now you’ve caught me, my pseudonym is Olivia!… or is it the other way around…

      DRAT! HA!

  9. HELENK says:

    has anyone thought about how warehousing the kids is really cheating the kids? Many kids learn a lot of things by being with their parents that is not taught in school.
    this may seem far fetched but this idea of putting these kids in a so-called school makes me think of orphanages

    • votermom says:

      Me too.
      My kids went to pre school – I was working full time back then & we could afford it, We paid a lot for a simple but good Montessori program. It was worth it.
      Right now there is a lot of competition amongst preschool & daycare providers which gives parents good choices. Make it universal govt-provided and it will quickly ink to the lowest minimum standard.

  10. HELENK says:

    maybe school trips that include places like this could change some thinking

    http://hotair.com/greenroom/archives/2013/03/03/video-the-museum-of-math/

  11. Constance says:

    I absolutely do not want my kids exposed to a government institution all day long. I think home schooling is a great idea but I don’t have the patience and my kids would be dead by now if I had gone that route. So I chose Catholic school which is still a male run institution but I figure Catholics are so incompetent at brainwashing (Judging by how many Catholic kids turn into Catholic adults) that the kids were safe there. If you take out the top 10% academically speaking and the bottom 20% of kids Catholic schools do an amazing job with the remaining 70% of kids.

    • HELENK says:

      when to both Catholic and public schools back in the day. Learned a lot and am very thankful for the education.
      Catholic school taught me to take responsibility for my actions. Use the brain God gave me. Have respect for others and demand respect for myself

      • driguana says:

        Me, too…Catholic elementary schools and public high schools…both had good aspects….even the Sisters of No Mercy provided some learning moments…

  12. HELENK says:

    http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/03/02/high-school-student-disarms-gunman-gets-suspended/

    today’s school thinking, and they want us to let them have our kids even earlier. do not think so

  13. yttik says:

    LOL, I’m afraid I’m at the opposite end for this version of utopia. I’d like to see kids stay home longer and start school later, say around 7 or eight. Why should the state replace parents? They have a lousy track record of taking care of anybody but themselves. Kids need parents and that’s basically what preschool is, an attempt to replace parents during those formative years. It’s not anyone’s fault, the economy, the culture, makes it more difficult for somebody in the house to take the time to actually raise the kids. Rather then warehousing children, I think we need to find ways to help parents have the chance to be parents.

    • elliesmom says:

      ^^This^^

    • swanspirit says:

      I am with yttk here . I am one of those mothers that felt that the school system stole my children away every fall . Anything that helps parents be parents is more beneficial to the child developmentally , if the parents are involved and paying attention , because what the child learns is delivered with love .

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