American Elephants

Head Start: 40 Year, $100 Billion Failure. Obama Pushes To Do It Again. by The Elephant's Child

President Obama is pushing forward with a proposal to enhance learning opportunities for pre-kindergarten under-privileged children and middle class children. He wants to provide opportunities for children as young as 3 to participate, asserting that “education has to start at the earliest possible age.”

The president claimed every dollar invested in high-quality pre-kindergarten education ultimately saves more than $7 by, among other things, boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, and reducing violent crime. Yet the U.S. isn’t offering enough kids educational opportunities at a time when they are “just sponges soaking stuff in.”

This was the rationale for Head Start. The idea seems to be that well-to-do families often send their children to expensive pre-schools, their children do better in school, therefore if we duplicate the pre-school programs for poor children, then they will do well in school too. Oddly enough, we have just had another report from HHS on Head Start, which was mandated by Congress during the 1998 reauthorization of the program. After collecting data on more than 5,000 three and four-year-old children randomly assigned to either a Head Start or a non Head Start control group, the Department of Health and Human Services found “few sustained benefits”.

For more than 40 years the federal government has plowed more than $100 billion into this program, to little effect. There are other government programs whose effects actually grow substantially over time, and that are comparatively economical. The federal DC voucher program found that by their third year in private schools, the evidence was clear that voucher-receiving students were reading more than two grade levels above a randomized control group that stayed in public schools. Congress, particularly Democrats, defunded the DC voucher program while raising spending on Head Start.

The answer to the quandary of giving pre-school children a good start in education comes not from the example of a popular but ineffective Head Start program, but from another example, which President Obama probably didn’t like either, at the National Prayer Breakfast, when Dr. Benjamin Carson gave the keynote address.

Without saying a word critical of the president, Dr. Carson eviscerated the core assumptions of the Obama administration. He spoke eloquently about individual responsibility , the consequences of moral decay and soaring debt, the sinfulness of class envy and the pernicious effects of political correctness. It must have been especially galling to have his premises challenged by an African-American of such sterling character and profound accomplishment. Jack Kelly described:

Ben Carson was reared in inner-city Detroit by a mother who made time to parent despite working 18-hour days. She restricted her sons’ TV watching, wouldn’t let them play outside until they’d done their homework, required them to read two books a week.

The books his mom made him read eventually sparked a love of learning in young Ben.

A dramatic early incident caused him to deal with his violent temper, and he concluded that what happened to him in life depended chiefly on the choices he made, and the energy he put into them.

From then on, Dr. Carson’s story is pure Horatio Alger: A scholarship to Yale, medical school at the University of Michigan, then Johns Hopkins, where he became director of pediatric neurosurgery at the remarkably young age of 33. He pioneered the surgical techniques used to separate conjoined twins. He’s among America’s 20 foremost physicians and scientists, according to CNN; a “living legend,” according to the Library of Congress. A movie about his life was made in 2009.

Simple stubborn program. Restricted TV watching. Can’t play outside until their homework’s done, and make them read two books a week. How to parent.

Most of us don’t know all that much about parenting, except what we learned from our own parents. I’ve read about Asian “tiger mothers” who apparently account for the numbers of successful Asian students who become successful professionals at the top of their fields. So how do we teach parents how to raise successful students and successful professionals? This is a job for society’s little platoons, the private organizations and the churches, Not the federal government.

The federal government is inflicted with political correctness and silly ideas about diversity, and regulations and one-size-fits-all bureaucracy. They are not capable of fixing this.

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