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Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Theory of govt. Pre k

More on my thoughts about starting another bureaucracy based on a theory and sketchy information:

First, we need to start with good studies or at the very least, model a new idea after one that has proven to work.

I can't figure out why we are doing what we are doing right now on this Pre-K plan. If I were a doctor I would not hand out medicine before I knew the sickness. If I were a general in war I would not begin to invade without a clear goal to measure success.

If the state were a business, I would know not to expand when there are problems in the system that must be addressed first.

The real question is who is better equipped at raising children-the parents or the state. So far I have not heard any convincing evidence that this program will help Tennessee's children in the long run.

My personal philosophy is that more government is not the solution. A big problem is the breakdown in the family and therefore the difficulties associated with that breakdown. Studies reveal that more than any other factor-- more than race, nationality, or economic status--the parental participation in the child's education is the greatest barometer to success.

The real question is how to best encourage parental involvement in their children's education. The current plan involves giving up on the family unit. It appears we are waving the white flag while saying “We surrender! The family has failed!”

If taking children earlier doesn't work, then what next? Do we take them at 2 years---at birth? Parental responsibility is something we should encourage and support. Parental responsibilty must replace collective excuse making.

I disagree with the “it takes a village” mindset, instead we should do all we can to change the mindset to "it takes a family."

Some of the best education stories I've heard come from privately run programs. In one case, before the child was admitted to school, the parent had to attend classes where they were instructed how to read to their children (faster, slower, point things out in pictures).

In some cases the parents had to sit in a class and pick out a teacher. If the teacher ended up with too few students, then he/she didn't teach that year. Obviously teacher tenure was not in effect in this example.

Also, in some places, PARENTS get a report card on such things as attending meetings, volunteering at school, calling teacher about student progress, sitting in on a class, etc. Do these programs sound good? They usually cost a little more than half of what the Governor is proposing to spend and have proven to have effective results. And regarding vouchers (did I say a bad word?) to be used for these pre-K programs, they are off the table. In fact, the plan the Governor is pushing will likely kill off approximately half of these private run programs. In other words, instead of encouraging free enterprise and successful programs, the Governor wants the state to do the job for twice the cost, run private programs out of business, and get worse results. Brilliant.

I guess he and the legislators who vote for it can at least be assured of a NEA and TEA endorsement in their next elections.

Bob Dole once said "a government that will take control of the economy for the good of the people will next try to take control of the people for the good of the economy." It sounds like the Governor's plan is killing both birds with one stone.

Truancy is also a problem in this state, and while some counties are beginning to crack down, it still remains a problem. If children aren't at school, parents need to be held responsible.

There are many other ways to increase test scores, such as Dolly Parton's book from birth program. It seems to be having good results by sending an age appropriate book to a child on a monthly basis. I know when I was a kid if I received anything in the mail it was a huge deal to me. I harassed my mother non-stop until she read it to me. Kids can be persistent in this way (I'm sure you've witnessed it in the candy or cereal aisle).This program costs about $25.00 a year compaired to 5-9 thousand sound like a deal to you?

All of these ideas are low cost and involve changing the way things are currently done. At some point we have to start looking at the process instead of just adding another layer of bureaucracy. But often times the things that are logical aren't listened to by the powers that be. If we must go the state run road why not make the parents come to classes or be forced to pay for the pre K?

With a new Pre-K plan, be prepared for another big government bite.


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  4. I am curious about what penalties the parents might incur if the parent grade card policy is put into place and these parents receive poor grades. Who would run this? The school systems? It makes sense to keep the parents accoutnable. But, in this scenario, instead of the government raising the children itself, it seems as though the government is mandating a minimum level of school-related contact the parent must have. Thus, even though the parents may be seen and heard more often at the school, it does not necessarily follow that the parents will become more involved with their childrens' education at home, where it is most important.

    If you get a chance, Stacey, look at how many grad students are accepted into the education program at UTK. If I'm not mistaken, the school's post-grad upper-crust program is capped at 20. Considering the teacher shortage in the state, wouldn't it make sense to raise the cap or remove it entirely? I recently spoke with a friend who is in the undergrad education program at UTK. She informed me that several people who graduated last year were denied entry into this post-grad program because they didn't score well enough on the GRE.(The minimum is a 1000, I believe; not hard to achieve, but how much relevancy does word origin and algebra II have to pre-k and early childhood education?) In your capacity as a legislator, I definitely think this is something you could address.

    Since I'm on the subject of post-grad study, I think it would be beneficial for all involved to expand the internship programs offered at universities. Even though a one-year internship is mandatory, some of the enrollees spend their time at just one school, and sometimes, even though rare, teaching the same grade level. Why not expand it to state-run preschools as well? For example, UTK has two of these preschools that I know of off the top of my head. By expanding the internship programs, I believe that the more experienced teachers actually can learn from their interns, and of course vice versa.

  5. Pking read comments from me previous post

  6. If kindergarten is so difficult for the students that we are even considering a pre k, i suggest that we save the money and "ease up" on the difficulty of kindergarten (half joking). Of course parents are responsible for preparing children for the "rigors" of kindergarten, but i feel that children are very intelligent and will be able to catch up with those not at risk students. Pre k as a government responsibility is unnecessary , let the kidds stay kidds for one more year, they will do fine if "they" chose to do so.

  7. Mike225: If you are an education major, that could explain a lot of your posts. Unfortunately, I've read various publications which show that Education is the least rigorous academic major, and most of what they're learning is scholastic wheel-redesigning. And I believe that we have a teacher shortage because society (not me, mind you) expects teachers to be parents. The solution to bad parenting is very simple, but it isn't easy. Stop buffering parents from the consequences of their bad choices, and stop making it easier for them to not be responsible. The funny thing about Liberalism is that the answer to every problem is more gov't intrusion, resulting in a need for more revenue--a Lefty wet dream. Even when a Liberal scheme fails, their answer is more gov't and more taxes.

  8. Actually I'm not an education major, but my fiancee does have a master's degree in it, so I hear a lot of stuff about it. To be fair, it does not seem to be a very easy major, particularly at the master's level. I don't know how this "could explain a lot of [my] posts," anyway. Why don't you elaborate on how it explains my posts? By the way, since you're so obsessed with me now, I'm a poli sci guy.

    Let's set the record straight Powertee. Liberalism, by its classical definition, demands *less* government intrusion. The word "liberal" means "free." When the founders of classical liberalism wrote all their works, they were demanding less government intrusion (see John Stuart Mill). However, modern liberalism sees government as the answer. Don't conflate the two in your posts. You confuse the educated and embarrass yourself.

  9. Mike225, Thanks for the definitions, but Liberalism (big "L") is not the same as "small l" liberalism. I try to be very careful in my capitalization, and I don't think anyone has been confused (though some [wink, nod] have been embarrassed) by my use of the word. In any event, I'm not obsessed with you, only vigilant against BS. Regarding being an Ed major and specifics about how it could explain some of your posts, that was an attempted joke about how unrigorous Ed degrees are and how poorly-reasoned, in my opinion, some of your posts are. But I should have resisted the temptation and focused on my real point, which is that Ed degrees are too often exercises in wheel-reinvention. Teaching elementary age children isn't rocket science, and I would assert that it is usually "gifting" or temperaments that make a good teacher. I DO believe that our system of producing teachers is flawed; however, I don't think that it is because the academic standards are too high--it's the Education establishment's efforts to hold down supply. Re. the way we prepare educators today, see The Conspiracy of Ignorance (Martin Gross) or , http://www.illinoisloop.org/gross.html . Also, as I mentioned above, it doesn't help in recruiting teachers if we expect them to do too much of what PARENTS should be doing.

  10. Re. the problems with our system of educating educators, see here:
    http://www.eagleforum.org/educate/2000/mar00/focus_teaching.html .

  11. Power, let me set another thing straight for you, PT: I'm not a democrat. I'm not a modern liberal. I wouldn't call myself left at all. I am a constitutional conservative, which is drastically different from either the democrat or republican parties today.

    Powertee, you and I agree more than you'd realize. Teachers shouldn't parent. The government shouldn't parent. The shocking truth to many people out there is that *parents* should parent! (Sadly enough, it probably does surprise some people.) Government's not the answer to this problem. Can I resort to cliches? I hope you don't mind. "The government that governs best governs least." Beautifully simple, yet stunningly accurate.

    I have actually been surprised at the coursework I've seen my fiancee endure during her tenure as an education student. Most of it consists of developmental psychology and classroom sociology. I ask you: have you been enrolled in an education program before? I'm sure you're familiar with the phrase about not judging before walking a mile in a person's shoes. Honestly, the academic programs that I've seen challenge students the least come from the business department. Instead of training students to employ logic when confronted with a problem, they train the students to get in groups and discuss; to act like everybody else; and to do exactly what they're told.

    By the way, I did not say anything about the academic standards being too high. I said that the program has a very low cap that should be raised so that all who are qualified can enter. As it stands now, the program turns away about 50 students who are qualified for it; but, why?

  12. Powertee, I couldn't get your second link to work, but I did read your first one. It definitely gives one something to ponder. However, I did better in classes that I enjoyed than I did in ones that I hated. I would say that at least some percentage of the education undergrads experience that same phenomenon. However, it is something I will begin researching more. Therefore, I am in your debt for opening me to a new concept.

  13. Mike225, I don't doubt that you and I agree on a lot, and I hope I'm not too prickly in my posts. But I will say that I think you are squishy on various issues.

    Regarding your fiancee's grad studies in Education, the emphases you listed (developmental psychology and classroom sociology) are exactly what concern me. I have a graduate degree, but I wholly reject the premise that a person has to have studied grad. level education to be able to opine about it. But don't you think that having a cap on the program is one way of raising the standards? What, for example, does "being qualified" mean if the qualifications are too low? In sum, there are more doctorates in ed. than in any other discipline; including chemistry, engineering, math, physical sciences and social sciences; indeed, there are more doctorates in education given each year than doctors in business, English, math, philosophy, and religion combined. One likely reason that spending on education between '70-'99 has been double the growth in the cost of living (even with a static student population) is probably because our public ed system is top heavy.

    And, sorry about the bad link. Try this link http://tinyurl.com/8rsmr

  14. it seems to me that similar arguments apply to Charter Schools -- the national research is mixed at best, and in some cases, suggests that Charter Schools perform at levels lower than regular public schools -- while the Charter School experiment is still young and largely untested in TN, members of Mr. Campfield's party are ready to expand it in a big way.

    If we should wait until there's more data and analysis on pre-K before we expand the pilot program, the same logic should apply to Charter Schools.


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