You Heard the Pros, Here’s Some Cons: Pre-K - TribPapers
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You Heard the Pros, Here’s Some Cons: Pre-K

Asheville – With many major, strategic actions taken by Asheville City Council and the Buncombe County Commissioners, staff has presented only one side of the issue, leaving a perception that local leaders are kowtowing to interest groups. An example was the commissioners’ decision to invest megabucks in early childcare. Yes, they formed a committee and listened to experts in the field and experts on being experts. 

These people cited the Abecedarian project and other research that seems to have been misapplied to the local context. Of interest were studies that followed cohorts from daycare into early adulthood to collect data to substantiate claims that pre-K care boosts learning. One study performed in Jamaica was believed to do just that, but later analysis revealed it was performed on persons with stunted growth, which put them at a disadvantage in their culture. Furthermore, Jamaica as a whole is a lot more impoverished than the United States.

The Jamaica study only showed what had been broadly accepted: Pre-K education helps disadvantaged children – those whose parents don’t speak the local language or don’t have books in the home, for example. Studies with more careful controls and more representative populations conclude that non-disadvantaged students who attend pre-K tend to fare worse later in life, both in terms of income and “involvement with the criminal justice system.” Also, the initial boosts of being in daycare largely taper away as children move through the school system. One explanation, studied by Harvard neurologists, is that infant stress not mitigated by a caregiver leads to toxic stress, with weakened bodily function and altered brain architecture.

Studies popular among opponents of universal daycare recommend, instead of making everybody put their kids in daycare, setting up a system where those who want to keep their children at home or pay out-of-pocket for private daycare may do so. Then, a system of vouchers, scholarships, or something else could be set up for kids who would benefit from pre-K. Unfortunately, demographics are an imperfect determinant of quality parenting, and individual families move in and out of poverty.

One excuse typically used for not converting to universal daycare is cost. Somewhat dated estimations of per-child monthly costs ran around $1,000. Pre-K today would be much more because a major argument for enrolling children is that parents and some daycare centers lack requisite training and/or do not teach a certified curriculum designed to prepare children for kindergarten. Thickening the plot, professionals are not inclined to spend four years getting certified for jobs that pay competitive wages with McDonald’s. So, Buncombe County’s goal is for the government to subsidize training as well as supplemental compensation for pre-K instructors. Pay no attention to the taxpayers behind the curtain, who, like healthy youth in Obamacare, had to buy extra insurance to pay for the program.

In 1971, President Nixon overrode counsel to use cost to explain his veto of universal daycare, and instead opted to follow the advice of Pat Buchanan to describe it as, “a long leap into the dark [that would] commit the vast moral authority of the national government to the side of communal approaches to child-rearing over against the family-centered approach.” That was before parents were viewed as fundamentalist, abusive/negligent rednecks; and government hires, infallible paragons of progressivism.

Long after World War II, visions of Hitler’s Youth were still dancing in the heads of Americans. The prevailing notion remained that parents were responsible for sheltering, feeding, and teaching their children moral values from an early age. During the Cold War, the argument was reframed as sheltering children from the “Godless Communists,” who had no regard for cultivating virtues of spiritual worth. Even as late as the Obama administration, opposition to what was seen as putting children in indoctrination camps at an early age was not rare. Opposing Common Core, Christel Lane Swasey blogged, “Why does government desire to hold our babies while we work? Two reasons: both titled ‘human capital.’

“1. HUMAN CAPITAL. Government sees toddlers as property. Socialist-styled governments increasingly are using the term ‘human capital’ to refer to the people they plan to feed, work, tax, and yes, teach. They want to imprint upon their capital their ideas and values as early as possible. Yes, it’s creepy. But it’s no secret it’s very openly admitted and promoted.…

“2. HUMAN CAPITAL. Government sees mothers (or fathers) as property. The socialist-style governments are increasingly hoping to redistribute the parents; if a parent is highly educated or trained, it is not in the best interest of those who view those parents as human capital to ‘allow’ them to be home, raising children, when they could be serving the government in other ways. It is a basic choice that is being taken away from a parent when the government, financially or in other ways, incentivizes the leaving of babies in daycare so that the adults will work and be taxed.”

She continued with choice statements like, “Let’s not be asleep while our leaders turn our society into a socialist/communist styled nanny-government nation and manipulate our babies out of our arms,” “Recognize the wrong-minded, popular notion that socialism is good, that government is the ultimate provider, and that individual families are inept caretakers for their own offspring,” and, “Government can never provide a thing; it can only forcibly take from you to redistribute to me, or, forcibly take from me to
redistribute to you.”

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