Thursday, February 14, 2013

Teaching Babies to Read Doesn't Make Them Smarter

In the US, we spend more money on education than any other developed nation in the world - an average of $7700 per child. No country in the world spends more on education than we do.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. *Attributed to Albert Einstein

The problem is for all of the money we spend on education, we're not really seeing the kind of results one would expect to see. We spend more money than any other country, but we don't have a superior education. In fact, the opposite really does seem to be true, and rather than being significantly more educated, we fall far below many countries that spend two-thirds what we spent. Unfortunately, the usual response from our leaders is to spend more money on education.

In fact, it seems that our President plans to increase educational spending in an area that has shown to be very ineffective. The plan is to increase spending for preschool care, but in a study that asked the question, "Does Universal Preschool Improve Learning?" the answer was no. The study found that "More than a decade after offering students universal preschool, neither Georgia nor Oklahoma has shown impressive progress in student academic achievement ...."

And so we go back to Einstein's quote, and the fact that our educational system - indeed most of the government-run institutions in this country - has become an exercise in insanity, where we keep doing the same things, offering the same sorts of curriculum opportunities (which more and more encourage memorization over any real learning) with no results and more money spent trying to make the results look different than they really are.

I wonder, if our Administration would put those extra dollars into funding higher education opportunities - State-sponsored college educations, free vocational/technical training, and sponsored internships - rather than forcing kids into institutionalized learning at younger and younger ages, how much better things would become?


  1. Formal schooling starts later in scandinavia, about 7, but their children are amongst the highest achievers in europe.
    Lets just stick with the home ed:-)

  2. One of the best books I read when starting out homeschooling my children was Better Late Than Early by Raymond and Dorothy Moore. They said that children, especially boys, do better if allowed to wait until the age of 10 before introducing academic subjects.

  3. But what if there is little or no "Ed" in your home,the way it is with too many families? Such children benefit greatly from the outside help that trained, caring professionals can give. And families benefit, too. One size never fits all. What is good for your family is not necessarily good for another family.

  4. There's no ONE magic bullet that will "fix" education. And it's not JUST the education system you have to fix--it's a varied web of issues. And like Laurie said--what works for one group of people in one area may not work for another. And quite honestly--it will never be "fixed" completely. EVER. You can only account for what the passage of time brings so much. Things happen. Economies change. Demographics change. It's frustrating and it's frustrating being associated with someone on the "frontlines" of public institutionalized education.

  5. Absolutely! There is no one size fits all, and that is exactly my point.

    The fact is that there is no proof that early childhood education has been beneficial (and, in fact, most research seems to suggest otherwise), and yet, we keep sending kids to school at younger and younger ages. While some children (a minority of kids in EXTREME situations – not the average middle income kid, which this “new” program will reportedly target) might benefit from these early intervention programs initially, studies have shown that by the time they are in middle school, any benefits will no longer be evident.

    There is evidence, however, that shows intervention programs and alternative education programs for older students (teens and young adults) are overwhelmingly beneficial, and especially in areas with high risk youth populations. Giving our teens and young adults real, marketable skills while they’re still in high school would go a lot further to improve our world than teaching four year olds to cut with scissors, identify colors, and learn the alphabet.

    My point is that preschool programs won't help as much as programs geared toward teaching actual skills for older students, and we’d be a lot better off in putting our money toward helping the older kids succeed than trying to force kids into school too early.

  6. Label me a conspiracy nut if you should like, but I believe it is not for the altruistic reason of wanting to help children but for the more insidious reason of separating them from their families earlier and indoctrinating them in the behaiors the state wishes to encourage. And I'm a public school teacher. I think introducing children to formal schooling too early forces many of them to be forever labeled as special ed and, the most tragic effect of all, engenders a very real hatred of learning and reading.

  7. I live here, in Georgia, where Mr Obama visited to orate about this wondrous new update to the preschool program. I call BS!

    I work for the local school system, have for 18 years. I also homeschooled my kids. Classes at the local middle school have 42 students in each room...with one teacher. Kids who arrive 2-3 minutes later get to share desks in the back of the room. This is a modern school that has been enlarged within the last 3 years, and they've already moved in some trailers for classes. This school "teaches" nearly 2,000 students.

    The money spent putting toddlers onto buses specially equipped with carseats, to spend 6 hours away from home to learn how to stand in a line, raise their hand to speak, and beg to go to the bathroom, is better spent finding more teachers to assist those overburdened with too many students. Or finding another building to use for classes. Or coming up with virtual classes, for the kids to use with all the new laptops they've been given, free, through the school. Or some novel approach we haven't thought of, or tried yet.
    But putting babies into the system when it has never been shown to help at all makes no sense to me.

  8. Just more free babysitting for the worker bees...maybe I should open a day care on how to build a the time they were 18 they would have something they could acutally use.

  9. I work in a public school with 85% poverty (not a teacher) and I see a LOT of very ill-prepared kids coming in to our K classes. Grandma sits them in front of the tv all day, or worse. Many children with learning or personality disorders, hearing or vision or speech issues won't get screened until they hit school. We have a 1st grade student who did a "virtual" k class- now he's being screened because he wanders, has 0 attention span, and doesn't seem to track on his surroundings. If he had come into school sooner, he would have been evaluated sooner. Sad. We need to go to all day K classes FIRST though. I think more $ should be spent on younger, more struggling kids AND higher ed. Vocational school is a much better choice for some kids who would never be able to afford college... or who couldn't make it academically.

  10. Children aren't supposed to be "prepared" for Kindergarten. Kindergarten - at least according to the philosophy of the man who created it - was developed "as a social experience for children for their transition from home to school." Somehow or other we deviated from the original intent, and it's done a lot more harm than good.

    There is still no evidence, except for EXTREME cases, that early childhood education benefits the average kid.

  11. Firstly, we automatically assume that it's the governments job to teach our children. Is this a wise choice? Secondly, we assume the government has chosen the best curriculum for our children? Again, is this a wise decision?

    Perhaps it is wise, if one assumes that our children may have a better chance of acquiring their portion of the American dream. But if the so-called dream is now an untruth, then perhaps we should teach our own children according to the laws of nature. This may be simply the basics of living, such as the nature of gardening, hunting, survival skills, building skills, etc.

  12. Exactly, Michael.

    Personally, I don't think it's the government's job to teach (or parent) our children.

  13. The federal government needs to get out of the education business completely!! One size doesn't fit all and educational choices and investment should be left to each state, each city, each town, each community, each family.

  14. The US Constitution gave control of education to the States. If we were still adhering to the Constitution, the Federal government wouldn't have anything to do with education.

  15. In a perfect world that would be the case, but in reality the public school system stinks, and many parents don't or can't parent (in jail). K classes start off with basic letters, colors, prereading, premath, group work/play, etc. Unless you want to live off the land as a hermit (which is fine) people need basic skills to be able to function in the world- reading, basic math, social skills, some science, etc. Until if, and when, men and women start teaching their kids someone has to. Hopefully the system will get better at some point, I hope. There are lots of other types of schools for parents to choose from if they don't want any public school system...

  16. So ... the argument is that the schools stink, but parents stink worse?

    I still say that early childhood education is NOT the answer - that we'd be better off giving our teenagers some real opportunities for REAL employment - and not just some supposed training to get them ready for college (or manufacturing jobs which no longer exist). As is, the only thing our high school graduates are qualified to do is work at McDonalds or (worse) Walmart, where they can work full-time and be eligible for welfare.

    If we spent more time and money on teenagers, we might succeed in giving them the tools to lift themselves (and their children) out of poverty, and then, we wouldn't need early childhood intervention.

    As for other school options, most of those cost money. Isn't it just a travesty that the people who need the alternative educational choices the most are the ones who can't afford it? And worse, isn't is just a shame that the kids from poor families are the ones stuck in our stinky public education system with no alternatives for anything better? Talk about unfairness.