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"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." - Nelson Mandela

American Pre-K Is Killing Creativity and Curiosity in Children

By Carole Hornsby Haynes, Ph.D. | March 26, 2015  Education Views (Originally "Texas Politicians Expanding Free Daycare")

An overwhelming number of Texans have indicated they are highly dissatisfied with public education.  

Yet the 84th Legislature, at the lead of Governor Abbott and business leaders, is pulling out all stops to pass legislation that will expand government run education and create free daycare for thousands of illegal immigrant minors.  

Governor Abbott has made early education his top emergency legislative priority. Translated:  all related legislation is being fast-tracked through the legislature ahead of bill-passing deadlines.

Those currently eligible for Texas public pre-K Texas are low income, disadvantaged, and military children.

The U.S. Department of Education has handed down the edict that every child, regardless of immigration status, is “entitled” to a free public school education.   Thus, thousands of unaccompanied minors who have crossed the Texas border in recent months will be eligible for not only K-12, but also pre-K.

Texas politicians of both parties want to expand pre-K from a half-day to a full-day at a cost of $7,300 per child per year.

However, the 2014 Federation for American Immigration Reform study reported that it costs at least 30 percent more to educate students who do not speak English than those who speak English fluently.

Since young children learn best in the morning and are weary by afternoon, what is the reason for the big push to expand to full days?

Steven Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research in a Dallas Morning News article said, “… low-income families in particular need full-day programs; otherwise, they are less likely to participate because work schedules often don’t allow time to pick up children earlier in the day.”

The bottom line is that full-day pre-K will provide free government daycare for the thousands of illegal alien children who are flooding our Texas cities.  The federal government does not permit any questioning about whether the children are citizens, only that they must receive free schooling and access to entitlements. 

The DMN article also points to the Vanderbilt study that found pre-K effects faded after the third grade, but noted that those children who did not attend pre-K were held back more frequently in kindergarten than those who had.

Daycare advocates argue that being held back in kindergarten is harmful for the child’s future success.

However, many of the world’s top-performing high-school students do not begin formal schooling until age six or seven.  One of the best known examples is that of Finland which does not allow a child to begin formal schooling until age seven.  Kindergarten, which is not mandatory, does not begin until age six.  Yet Finland’s students are among the highest performing in the world -- U.S. students are near the bottom.

Although a major shift in American education has occurred, there is no research to support the premise that children who read at age five do better in the long run than those who learn at age six or seven.

State Representative Eric Johnson (D) who filed HB 1100 along with Marsha Farney (R) stated, "The research is in, and it shows that full-day pre-K is one of the best investments we can make in education.  It can cut the achievement gap for children in poverty in half and will reduce future spending on remedial education, special education and the criminal justice system. If we're serious about improving public, we've got to get serious about full-day pre-K."  

His bill calls for a “gold standard” pre-K program.  Two well known contemporary studies have been done since the year 2000 using the experimental design, the “gold standard” for evaluation studies in education. 

One program is the Head Start Impact Study and the other is Vanderbilt University’s evaluation of a Tennessee statewide high quality program. Neither shows long-term effects of pre-K.

And from the U.S. Department of Health: “In the long run, the cognitive and socio-emotional test scores of former Head Start students do not remain superior to those of disadvantaged children who did not attend Head Start.”

As further justification for expanding from half-day to full-day Steven Barnett stated, “So for example, early math is a great predictor of outcomes but most preschools are doing very little math because they just don’t have the time. If programs went to full-day and you added early math, right there — that by itself — can make a huge difference for children.”

Play-based kindergartens, and now even preschools, have been replaced largely by daily drilling literacy and math skills into young children and giving or preparing for tests.

Researchers who have studied the effects of the daily drilling of literacy and math skills to make young children develop faster have found both creativity and curiosity to be negatively affected. 

When Kyung Hee Kim at the College of William and Mary analyzed nearly 300,000 Torrance scores of children and adults, she found that creativity scores had risen steadily until 1990.  From that point on, creativity scores have continued to fall.  Kim said, “It’s very clear, and the decrease is very significant.”  The decline in the scores of younger children in America -- from K-6 -- is the “most serious.”

The stifling of creativity and curiosity in young children makes teaching advanced math and science later more difficult.  Already this has had an impact, for now we are importing highly skilled talent because too many of our students are not academically prepared for the business world. 

Because our students were encouraged in the past to be creative, great American minds have brought forth inventions that have benefited millions throughout the world.  With students now being taught collectivism, instead of individualism, through the Progressive teaching methods of American public education, we are seeing the killing of the great entrepreneurial spirit that has been the hallmark of America.

The 1960s HighScope Preschool Curriculum Comparison Study (PCCS) for at-risk three- and four-year-old children from low-income families used three different preschool classes.  Children learned either through play or through direct instruction.  By age 23, at the conclusion of the study, the direct instruction students showed serious issues in overall development:

  • 47% had needed special education as compared with 6% of the others;
  • 34% had been arrested for a felony offense as compared with 9% of the others;
  • 27% had been suspended from work as compared with 0% of the others;
  • 0% had married and were living with spouses while 31% of the others had; and
  • 11% had done volunteer work as compared with 43% of the others.

As Texans who will have to foot the bill and reap the consequences of a program that has so many negatives, we should be asking the big question, “Why is pre-K such a high priority for Governor Abbott, business leaders, and politicians?”

Is it because they believe that government can do a better job of rearing young children? 

Copyright ©2015 Carole Hornsby Haynes, Ph.D. |  www.drcarolehhaynes.com

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