Saturday, December 27, 2008

Preschool, Crime, and Public Education

The intellectual package-deal is a means of sneaking in the acceptance of an agenda or idea that would not be accepted if offered openly, under cover of some legitimate issue that few would have any reason to argue with. For example, a liberal would say that if you oppose SCHIP you don’t care about childrens’ health, or if you oppose environmentalism you favor “polluters” over clean air and rivers. Or a conservative would say that if you oppose government restrictions on media content you favor pornography over “family values”, or you are pro-abortion if you oppose a legal ban on that procedure. Smuggled in via these examples are the undermining of property rights, the first amendment, and government’s proper role of protecting man’s individual rights. The “cover” is adequate healthcare for children, cleaner methods of industrialization (which is not the goal of environmentalism), shielding minors from age-inappropriate information, or the protection of human life (which is not the goal of the “pro-life” movement). The result of the efforts of the practitioners’ “cover issue” advocacy is expanded government control and consequent erosion of individual rights.

In other words, the means are inextricably linked to the ends. The desired results, which are presented in a generalized, out-of-context way that few people would disagree about, leave people to accept a stealth premise without debate. Unless, of course, one were to break apart the package deal to expose its fundamental essences.

It is through such a package-dealing process, which the Left is particularly adept at, that statism is advancing, and freedom is eroding, in America. The art of the package-deal is what Fran Wood is counting on to pave the way for the continuing intrusion of the public school monopoly into the private preschool market. I wrote about this “hostile preschool takeover” in a 2007 post. Here, Wood cites a very dubious study, to put it mildly. In her recent N.J. Star-Ledger article entitled Funding Pre-K and Fighting Crime, she writes;

“Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, a national nonprofit anti-crime organization, unveiled a report touting the results of several studies contrasting violence and crime among children who were enrolled in early childhood education programs vs. those who were not.

“Data released in 2004, according to Fight Crime; Invest in Kids vice president Jeff Kirsch, showed that 23 years later, those who had no preschool program were five times more likely to be criminal offenders.

“By age 40, according to the report, those not enrolled in the program were "more than twice as likely to become career offenders (with more than 10 arrests) and twice as likely to be arrested for violent crimes.

“They also were more likely to abuse illegal drugs, four times more likely to be arrested for drug felonies and seven times more likely to be arrested for possession of dangerous drugs.”


Does the old saying about “lies, damned lies, and statistics” come to mind? “Right! It’s like preschool is the only variable”, to paraphrase my daughter Christine’s remark to me. This litany of statistics “that will get your attention” goes on. When you read the article, though, it becomes obvious what issues Ms. Wood doesn’t consider important enough to mention. The basic premise here is that if you reject the means…government-run preschool…you are against the desirable ends…early childhood education and “fighting crime”. After all, who doesn’t want properly educated children and a low crime rate? The fog of the package-deal smothers real issues involved here.

I left the following rebuttal to her article:

Posted by Zemack on 12/12/08 at 4:32PM

The implication here is if you don't submit to a hostile government takeover of pre-schooling, you are pro-crime. This is a classic statist intellectual package-deal. Pre-school is not the issue here. Expanded government power over education, and the consequent violation of individual rights, is the issue.

Whose educational philosophy will be imposed on the parents and children? Will children be trained to subordinate their own judgement to the arbitrary will of some authority, whether the teacher or the class as a group? Or will they be encouraged to think independently? Will they be coerced into "sharing" their learning experiences with any other child who wants to nose in on their current activity? Or will they be allowed the freedom to concentrate their attention on the task at hand without interruption, thus discovering the principle of respect for the rights of others?

Will the government-run pre-schools be used as an indoctrination tool for the purpose of bringing about "social change", as the father of modern "progressive" education advocated...the self-described socialist John Dewey? Or will the pre-schools be an environment where children can develop their individual cognitive mental skills consistent with each child's unique developmental timetable, with the ultimate goal being intellectual independence, as advocated my Maria Montessori? Will children "learn" through rote memorization (i.e., Give them a fish.), or will they learn to use their conceptual, abstract faculty in order to hierarchize and integrate their acquired knowledge according to essential principles (Teach them to fish.)?

What is meant by "public dollars"? There is no such thing. The "Public" dollars of which Ms. Wood refers are the earnings of private citizens taken by force of taxation, to be used by politically powerful groups for purposes that the earners may oppose such as the ongoing hostile pre-school takeover by the coercive government education monopoly. To push public pre-school funded by money confiscated by force from unwilling taxpayers...including those parents taking responsibility for their own children's pre-school...under the pretense of preventing crime is a monumental conceptual evasion. At least street thugs are honest enough not to claim that they are robbing their victims for their own good, or for the good of "society".

Why is it "investment" when politicians spend other peoples' money, but not when spent by those who earned it? Why is it just to force parents to pay for the education of other peoples' children in accordance with someone else's agenda?

Rather than expand the government school monopoly, the pre-school market should be left free. Rather than having their earnings confiscated through taxation, parents should be able to claim a direct credit against their existing school taxes so that they can use their own money for their own child's pre-school education. That some parents would renege on their responsibilities is no reason to violate the rights of all other parents. To sacrifice the responsible parents to the irresponsible is a moral crime. Aiding responsible, but poor, parents is certainly a worthy undertaking, and I commend anyone who chooses to step up in that regard. But charity is a private, voluntary matter, engaged in by people of good will. Good will ends where physical coercion begins. Show me someone who strives to practice charity with other peoples' tax money, and I'll show you a phony.

This much Ms. Wood and I agree on. I believe that the first few years of any child's life is a critical time for mental development. Consequently, pre-school should be a cornerstone of that period. Because learning how to think, the essence of early childhood education, is exclusively a private undertaking, it is a time when the privacy needs of the child must be stringently respected. So the right pre-school, governed by the right philosophy, is critical here. I favor the "concentrated attention" method of Maria Montessori, which focuses on the development of the child's proper method of mental functioning, the conceptual faculty. Homeschooling, which at this age level is well within the means and capabilities of any motivated parent, is far preferable to an inferior pre-school, which can do more harm than good. The responsibility for these decisions rests with the parents.

The public schools should stay out of the pre-school area of education. But if it is going to offer pre-school, it must be offered strictly on a voluntary full tuition basis only. Their should be no taxpayer subsidy...no "public dollars"...whatsoever. Forcing already over-taxed parents (or anyone else) to foot the pre-school expenses of other parents is immoral. Forcing anyone to support educational ideas with which one disagrees is contrary to the principles of a free society. The educational needs of the child are fundamentally the responsibility of the parents who brought that child into the world. A free pre-school market protects the rights of all parents to fulfill their obligations according to their own rational judgement. Pre-school is too important to be placed under state control
.

Ms. Wood concludes that “Here in New Jersey, there has been an abundance of public resentment at spending tax dollars on such programs. But without public programs, pre-K education simply won't happen for most low-income children.” There are no low-income parents, it seems, who care enough about their children to homeschool, or pool resources with other parents to form neighborhood preschools or to hire private tutors, or to try to earn a few extra bucks for their children’s preschool. Maybe some simply don’t believe in preschool, or simply don’t care.

No matter. The very same over-funded urban public schools that are currently failing will miraculously excel at pre-K, somehow.

There are, of course, alternatives to a state takeover of preschool. Florida has a donation tax credit, and New Jersey has a similar law pending, which Ms. Wood wrote negatively about. My own proposal for transitioning to a free education market includes the same thing on a larger scale. If Ms. Wood wants to really help poor children obtain preschool education, a laudable goal, she should stop doing the bidding for the government school monopoly and, instead, get it out of the way before it completely crushes the private market (which is already happening). Education tax credits…the wave of the future…is the moral and practical way to advance the pre-school cause.

1 comment:

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