YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

February 17, 2013

[Aristo-democrats?] want pre-school for four-year-olds?

Evelyn Waugh aristocratsThis is more of an autobiographical blog than a scholarly one. There is no more agreement over how to raise children than there is over what constitutes mental illness or mental health, or how to fix our public schools. (For related blogs, see http://clarespark.com/2013/01/16/gun-control-laws-quick-fixes-undoing/, and http://clarespark.com/2011/08/31/review-steven-brills-class-warfare/.)

Nevertheless, as one of his magic bullets, POTUS proposed in his State of the Union speech that “pre-school” for all middle class and poor kids would go far in lifting them out of poverty and on to employability in the [brave new world] created by social media and other math-science-heavy fields.  Charles Krauthammer had a good time making fun of this proposal, suggesting that four year olds would no longer be allowed to dawdle and play without being pushed in a direction that did not even pay off with results past the third grade, as some studies of Head Start have shown.

This blog attempts to inject a bit of realism into the endless debate over child-rearing, with most of the Right lamenting the lack of father-headed households, and the decline of religion; presumably both repairs, bypassing overindulgent (yet pistol-packin’) mammas, would inject the sort of paternal superego that reduces crime and postpones gratification in favor of distant goals: family harmony, success in life, and fitness for family re-unification in Heaven. (Take three minutes to hear http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b39ALX4neIk.)

Almost no one utters the curse word “Puritan” any longer, for they, in all their variety, have been discredited as axe-wielding killjoys (Carrie Nation!), or worse:  Harvard’s Talcott Parsons identified “romantic puritans” in America as resembling Hitler in his world-destroying rage, as if the temperance “crusade” and its related Protestant reform movements had been disastrously feminized. (There is an entire academic bibliography on whether or not Victorian women were good or bad for today’s feminists.)

Carry Nation

Carry Nation

I do not pretend to be any kind of expert on child-development, and in my own case, relied upon maternal instinct and my own favorite activities, shared with my three children.  After I found a housekeeper, I amused myself and them by reading good children’s literature aloud (A.A. Milne, E. B. White, Roald Dahl), playing both classical music and folk songs on the piano or guitar, and with frequent trips to the local hardware store that sold art supplies. And then there were museums and concerts, with a few family trips to exotic locales such as Yosemite and New Mexico.

Had I not been a grandchild of immigrants, but rather a European aristocrat (or the child of a “political” family), I would have discussed world affairs at the dinner table as my children grew older (and returned from elite “public” schools), for it would have been assumed that my children would someday be running the world  as men of affairs, probably with their wives as powers behind the thrones and competent, stylish hostesses for an elite,  with both parents as experts in hiring multi-lingual governesses and/or tutors,  and in selecting clothing, interior décor, and gardens as proof of class position and legitimacy.

What the President is proposing is typical for an inexperienced elite, who wave their magic wands to lift up the poor through government-imagined programs, without sufficient consideration of the dire material conditions in which inner-city ghetto kids live, and the likely confusion of their single mothers, whose education would  have been inadequate to begin with, owing to outdated and/or partisan curricula (assuming that they were not high school dropouts owing to teen-age pregnancy).

My most popular blogs have been given to speculating on Barack Obama’s “narcissistic” personality and ambiguous politics. This I can say with rare certainty. No leftist would propose such a pathetic Band-Aid for the poor and badly educated as an enlargement (?) of Head Start (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Head_Start_Program.). This hit and miss proposal should be pinned on welfare statists, formerly known as “aristo-democrats” by the more sophisticated observers.

FDR, Lucy Mercer, Eleanor R.

FDR, Lucy Mercer, Eleanor R.

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2 Comments »

  1. [...] his recent State of the Union address. This would be part of the long-running Head Start programme. Clare Spark ably explores the subject on her blog. Note Obama’s rationale (emphases [...]

    Pingback by No nation is alone in assaults from statists « Churchmouse Campanologist — February 20, 2013 @ 10:02 pm | Reply

  2. Thank you, Clare, for another thought-provoking post.

    This idea has already taken off in Europe. (See links below, which I don’t wish to post as URLs as they are likely to end up as spam.) Most of the time the Left puts these ideas forward, but there are also a number of ‘conservatives’ who also favour them. Whatever the case might be, there is also a statist element in addition to this type of elitism.

    - The UK: ‘New’ Labour (Blair’s version) alarmed many British middle and working class parents with their plan to expand school places to three-year olds. This was over 10 years ago, but the whole of Labour’s education policies can be found in an interesting PDF: ieps.org.uk/PDFs/newlaboursneoliberal.pdf .

    If you go to page 7 of the document you’ll see this (emphasis mine):

    ‘New Labour’s 2001 Green Paper comments that `universal nursery education for all 4 year olds is now in place.
    There has been a significant expansion for 3 year-olds. In total there are 120,000 more free nursery places than
    in 1997′ (DfEE, 2001b: 9). It also promises to `ensure that every school with fewer than 25% achieving 5 or more
    A*-C at GCSE or more than 35 per cent on free school meals receives extra targeted assistance’ (p.9), and
    `expand Sure Start (a programme aimed at helping pre-school children in poorer areas) to include 500
    programmes, to support 400,000 under-4s, one-third of under-4s living in poverty, by 2004′ (DfEE, 2001b:6).’

    Sure Start is our equivalent to Head Start. Parents fear(ed) that it might be mandatory for toddlers to attend school and that the influence of the family would be significantly reduced. I caught a few morning news shows around that time wherein Labour ministers said that grandparents, aunts and mothers could never do as good a job as the state in raising children.

    On a similar note, the Conservative Education Minister Michael Gove proposed a 10-hour school day with Saturdays in 2011. (A greater hell for pupil and teacher I cannot imagine.) This proposal was echoed by Labour in 2012, as ‘good preparation for work’. The article is at parentdish.co.uk/2012/01/06/longer-school-day-will-prepare-kids-for-working-life-claims-labour/ . Again, parents are sceptical. I particularly liked reader Luanshaw’s comment about the potential decline of the family; parents and children would have much less time for spending time together.

    - France: The same thing is happening in Hollande’s government. Education Minister Vincent Peillon’s proposal for opening school places for under-threes is targeted (initially, in my opinion) for those in disadvantaged areas (e.g. a la Head Start and Sure Start). This article is found at the Parti Socialiste (PS) site parti-socialiste.fr/articles/rentree-2013-vincent-peillon-presente-les-mesures-pour-la-refondation-de-lecole . I should note that in some local councils, toddlers have already been attending school for several years now. One of my ex-colleagues (an executive) sent his under-threes, which he found convenient as both he and his wife worked.

    It’s statism pure and simple. When I was in school, what the teacher said mattered more than what my parents said. Now, decades on, I see that my parents were correct more often than my teachers. However, you can see what could happen with children being at school most of the time with just enough time to have dinner at home and go to bed. Whose ideas and values prevail then? The State’s.

    Not a good situation, but not uncommon in the West.

    Incidentally, I note that a number of these topics — drug legalisation, gay marriage, extended school hours — are going on in the US, UK and France with the same subjects and proposals discussed at or around the same time. A couple of weeks ago, I was intrigued to find that British health ‘experts’ told the nation that they were far too stiff upper lip to get medical checkups. The same item appeared in France: ‘experts’ said the French were too reticent to go to the doctor. Bottom line — there is much commonality in the statist agenda, wherever we live.

    In closing, your children and grandchildren are blessed to have such an informed mother and grandmother. I wish there were more women like you in the world.

    Comment by churchmouse — February 18, 2013 @ 3:20 pm | Reply


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