‘Preschool for all’: Obama adopts Meathead goal, spin
Feb. 24, 2013
By Chris Reed
Lance Izumi does a great job in the Orange County Register of documenting how President Obama’s push for universal preschool is a retread of actor-director Rob Reiner’s failed, scandal-scarred push in California — right down to citing the same shaky study to justify changing the lives of vast numbers of families.
“Both Reiner and Obama pointed to supposed research showing that for every tax dollar invested in government-run preschool several times that amount would be saved by higher graduation rates, lower teen pregnancy and reduced violent crime. The trouble is that there is no such long-term evidence for children of all income backgrounds.
“Reiner and his campaign made much of a RAND Corp. study that purported to show what universal government-run preschool would have cost and student-outcome benefits. However, even RAND admitted that there was only one study done on the long-term impact of preschool on non-poor children. According to RAND, this study found that non-poor children attending preschool ‘were no better off in terms of high school or college completion, earnings, or criminal justice system involvement than those not going to any preschool.’ In other words, President Obama’s argument for universal government-run preschool is totally baseless.”
Surveys say: No long-lasting benefit despite hype
And guess what? Much broader and more scientific studies sharply undermine the case for Obama’s and Reiner’s crusade, as Izumi lays out:
“Further, even evidence of the impact of preschool on low-income children is mixed. True, after longitudinal study, a few preschool programs have shown positive results, but there are critical caveats.
“First, the reasons for the positive results are tied to very specific elements, such as long-term parental involvement, and there is no guarantee that such elements will be included in Obama’s program. Further, some of these ‘positive’ studies are based on tiny sample sizes and have never been replicated.
“Finally, there’s a lot of data to show that whatever beneficial impact preschool has on poor children fades away after a few years.”
But what’s striking to me is that even though RAND acknowledges the weakness of the study that’s being touted by the president and his Hollywood pal, the Santa Monica-headquartered think tank is back on the pulpit pushing for universal preschool. A search on its website turns out lots of hits that suggests universal preschool is part of RAND’s agenda.
Silly me. I thought think tanks were supposed to be both ideological and empirical.
A whiff of ugly paternalism
And do I detect a slightly ugly whiff to our liberal elites’ eagerness to help poor families — often minorities — in raising their kids? This is coming from the same educrat wing of the Democratic Party that increasingly implies that teachers can never help broad swaths of students. I’m always struck when I read the comments sections of education blogs by how ready teachers are to argue that some kids just can’t be helped.
I am not a Pollyanna. I know students have varied skill sets. But it’s worth remembering that a central rationale for “No Child Left Behind” was a cliche — “the soft bigotry of low expectations” — that has some real truth to it. If teachers assume individual students — or categories of students — aren’t reachable, they don’t reach.
Is their paternalism now broadening out to suggest that there may be categories of parents who are so incompetent that they need government-supplied role models to save their 3- and 4-year-olds?
May 23, 2013