Wednesday, May 30, 2007

WND's Judge Roy Moore Shows His Ignorance

Anyone who knows me well, knows I'm no fan of Hilary, but this swipe at her wanting to mandate Pre-Kindergarten for all 4 year olds only serves to point out the Judge's ignorance on the subject. It also makes the point that Senator Clinton doesn't know much about what's going on in the nation's schools, but the Judge's underlying argument is what is really in question here...

"Last week, U.S. Sen. and Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton
unveiled a new proposal to fund state pre-kindergarten programs for all
4-year-old children in America. Calling the benefits of these pre-kindergarten
programs "astonishing," Clinton claimed such programs would not only reduce
child behavioral problems, but would also make children less likely to enter
special education programs, drop out of school or enter the welfare system.
However, pre-kindergarten programs have been around for many years, and such
grandiose claims have been refuted by several studies on the effectiveness of
such programs. The truth is government-run pre-kindergarten programs are another
huge burden on taxpayers, and, in fact, they are detrimental to children and our

Judge Moore is right, pre-kindergarten programs have been around for some time...a fact which Senator Clinton seems to be oblivious to...but in these opening statements, I find two huge problems. First, the "studies," mentioned are not identified or otherwise referenced, bringing into question not only the validity of the Judge's argument, but the very existence of the studies themselves. Second, and I'm going to reference my background in education and my years of classroom experience here...pre-kindergarten curriculum content does provide an excellent foundation for early cognitive development. Notice I did not endorse public programs specifically. As a homeschooler, although not in the religious sense, I recognize that not all local school districts or programs are what they should be. But to assert that pre-kindergarten programs...even the less than stellar examples...are detrimental to children is absurd. The cognitive elements alone, even when not entirely mastered, can only be beneficial.

As a brief example, learning early on that all reading and writing begins on the left-hand side of a page and moves to the right is an essential and previously overlooked element of pre-reading education. Giving a child an extra year to learn that concept as well as many other pre-reading concepts can hardly be described as detrimental.

Judge Moore continues...

"Proponents of universal pre-kindergarten offer early childhood
education as a remedy for declining test scores and repeated poor showings in
academic comparisons to students in other countries. They claim that by starting
public education at age 3 or 4 rather than 5 or 6, children will enter
kindergarten with better reading, language, math, cognitive and social skills,
they score better on standardized tests, and they are more likely to mature into
responsible citizens – likelier to be married, with higher education attainment
and better-paying jobs."

I consider myself (as well as a large group of current and former colleagues) a proponent of pre-kindergarten, but not for all the reasons the Judge mentions. Since I'm in Texas, I'll use my state's pre-kindergarten curriculum guidelines as an example and say that the majority of children who successfully complete these benchmarks will, in fact, have an advantage in the areas mentioned in the quote above. Standardized testing and the other examples mentioned are in entirely different ballparks, though. Putting the social issues aside, standardized testing has become something of a money game in many states (mine included), and the bar is set so low that teachers...forced to adhere to a very rigid teaching schedule that does not allow for enrichment or the type of higher order thinking skill reinforcement one would expect...are teaching to the lowest common denominator. Honestly, I could do an entire post solely on the subject of state mandated testing, but I'll leave it at that for now. I doubt, though, that any one with a modicum of common sense would believe that one year in a pre-kindergarten program will turn out more socially mature adults.

Judge Moore goes on for a few more paragraphs, mentioning unnamed studies which claim to refute benefits in the cognitive, behavioral and social realms before coming to his real point...

"Why, then, do social liberals like Hillary Clinton push so hard for the
expansion of preschool programs? Perhaps they understand the truth of Proverbs
22:6 better than most parents: "Train up a child in the way he should go: and
when he is old, he will not depart from it." When the mind of a young child is
subjected to state control before fundamental concepts and basic beliefs are
formulated, the child is much more likely to learn a liberal social and
political philosophy with the state as his or her master. Creation and God-given
rights are more easily replaced with evolution and government-granted rights.
Totalitarian regimes like those of Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin knew well the
value of a "youth corps." As Hans Schemm, leader of the Nazi Teacher's League,
once observed, "Those who have the youth on their side control the future."

Suddenly, anyone who suggests legitimate educational programs, devoid of any underlying attempts at indoctrination, is guilty of attempting just that...indoctrination. It's this type of fundamentalist paranoia that turns seemingly intelligent and capable people into blithering idiots. Hilary Clinton was wrong when she made the assertion that such educational programs weren't already in existence, but Judge Moore completely went off the deep end and seriously damaged his credibility with his linking of pre-kindergarten to the totalitarian motives of such nefarious regimes as Hitler and Stalin.

Bottom's pre-kindergarten, folks. Whether you send your child to a publicly offered program or teach them at home, we're talking about basic, foundational skills and nothing more. To insist it's anything other than just that smacks of fear-mongering and paranoia...period.

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