THE BLOG
03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

It's the Poverty, Stupid, Not Pre-K Skills

Found in my In-Box, 11/4/2009
Dear Susan,
Experts agree that pre-kindergarten education helps young children become more successful students, who become more responsible adults, who create stronger communities. But, pre-k opponents are trying to block billions in federal funding for these vital programs. Please join me now in letting your Senators know how you feel about pre-k education.
Don Hazen
Executive Editor, AlterNet.org

Dear Don,

One reason many of us longtime educators are nervous about federal funding for pre-K is that he who pays the bills calls the tune, and the corporate-politicos passing laws in D. C. have proven themselves to be tone deaf.

Agitating for Pre-K legislation is a smokescreen, pretending that a lack of skills is the problem when the real problem is poverty.

Leading the charge, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan moans that kindergartners can't handle the skill load they need to be competitive workers in the Global Economy. So let's have a pre-K program to get all kids ready for Algebra and competition with those kids in India and China.

The truth of the matter is that the skill load on today's kindergartners is what we used to teach second graders. In an Oct. 1 interview with Fortune magazine, Joel Klein chides middle-class and affluent parents who express concern about the stress in school: "They say there's too much high-stakes testing. But our kids are going to grow up in a world with high-stakes testing at every level, high-stakes challenges in a very aggressive global economy."

Here you have the philosophy/pedagogy of the neoliberal school reformer: Make your kindergartner's life miserable so he'll accept misery as an adult. And kindergarten is too late. Start that skill push ASAP:

It all began when she woke up one morning
and heard on NPR that US kids are behind.
And there was her son squishing Cheerios with his thumb,
Not even counting them.
Just squishing.

"Ohmygod," she worried, "I'm leaving this boy behind.
How will he ever get ahead in the Global Economy?"

Too old for Baby Einstein, she bought her boy
a subscription to the Wall Street Journal,
figuring it's never too young to get a feel for the landscape.
from "My neighbor is teaching her two-year-old to read the Wall Street Journal "

• If our corporate-politicos would look at the work of the Alliance for Childhood , they would see that what children need is imaginative free play.

• If our corporate-politicos would look at the research of Prof. Stephen Krashen, they would see that what produces test score gains is children's access to books. And yet money-strapped cities and schools continue to shut library doors.

• If our corporate-politicos would look at the study released by the US Surgeon General, they would know that one third of all poor youngsters ages 2 to 9 have untreated cavities. Many children in poor neighborhoods never see a dentist.

Imposing skill drill on Pre-schoolers won't fix their aching teeth.

• If our corporate-politicos would look at the November 2009 issue of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, they would see that half of American children receive food stamps, which means they live in food insecure homes, and studies show that Adults who grew up in poverty are more likely to have impaired physical and mental growth, lower academic achievement, and to remain impoverished.

Starting in the late '80ies, the Business Roundtable launched a singularly successful campaign of blaming the schools for the nation's economic woes. Our U. S. Department of Education follows in lockstep, bamboozling the public into thinking that the huge problem faced by our society is not an epidemic of dental caries, inadequate food, and closing libraries but a failure of teachers to deliver sufficient skills.