Big gov’mint wants children to learn letters, colors (including RED!)

Sometimes when I talk about politics I say how I am increasingly open to entitlement reform, debt-reduction and other reforms. I’ve become a lot more independent, frankly, in recent years. Liberals look at me cockeyed as though to say, “Hey man, we though you were one of us.” Moderates from the other side say, “Hey man, you should join us.” 

If we had a parliamentary system I’d probably find myself in one of the adorable, coalition-building parties like the LibDems in the United Kingdom. We don’t yet have a viable third party in the United States, so my choices are the lovably inept Democratic Party of my youth and the hard-charging maniacs over in the Republican Party. Despite my complaints, I’ve mostly stayed with the Dems for reasons that can be summed up by this recent headline from the conservative blog “True North” for a post by Karen Effrem.

Kindergarten Readiness: A Useless and Dangerous Concept

Now, if you go and read the post you’ll see that wrapped around this stunning rhetoric are a few halfway decent points, such as the assessment of readiness and the effectiveness of existing programs. Those are fair arguments to have. But the headline, blared without a hint of irony, is the problem, as is the assumption that because there is conflicting evidence about how many kids aren’t ready for kindergarten that there is no problem whatsoever. The author further warns of how kids being “labeled” can face difficulty in their education, which is true, but must be tempered with the fact that a lot of kids really do deal with “labeled” disabilities every day.

There is an assumption by some on the right that the people who choose to work in preschool education are in the business to indoctrinate the children of the world into some kind of (presumably liberal) thought patterns, all while getting fat of the public dole. You know, the money’s not that good and parents remain the single biggest influence on the values of children. That’s the truth.

If they’re doing their jobs, preschool teachers are teaching letters, numbers, and colors. Kids need to read by the winter break of kindergarten now if they are to keep up with the curriculum as its structured. This curriculum is only barely competitive with the education that kids in China or Europe receive. In fact, you could argue that the biggest crisis in education is the fact that we are operating at an enormous deficit with competing nations when it comes to reading, math, science, and language skills. The only thing Americans kids rank #1 in anymore is unjustified confidence, which is how posts like “Kindergarten Readiness: A Useless and Dangerous Concept” get their headlines.

Without getting into specifics, I have three boys, one of whom struggles with “a label,” who have all benefited in ways both small and very, very large from early childhood education. If you were to subtract that education from their lives you would be subtracting something very important from their potential. This kind of education is expensive, but not even remotely as expensive as developmental education is later in life, or behavior problems, or public assistance for people who didn’t or couldn’t receive career training as a result of a lifelong struggle with basic educational concepts.

Ignoring the problem is not a proper alternative to fixing the problem. And that’s why I’m still tooling around over here on the left. If the Republicans want me and my vote, they need to learn how to talk about professionals who dedicate their lives to helping kids with some respect. And they better bring better ideas than the Democrats for getting kids ready for kindergarten, which is far from useless and dangerous. In fact preparing kids for kindergarten is one of the most important things parents and communities must do, together.


  1. I am in a similar situation politically, I have no faith in either party. I still find myself voting consistently Democrat only because of the many asinine, unthinking, and unwilling to compromise ideas of the Republican party.

    If they would rethink their hard line, uncompromising position on many issues they may actually present a viable alternative. I disagree with the liberal wing of the Democratic party on many issues also, but they seem to have been forced away from passing their most polarizing positions by the moderates in their own party. (This cuts both ways though, just look at how health care reform was bungled by moderates…)

    Now if there was only a party who knew the ideological truth just like I do 😉

  2. Name some policies that are “too liberal” that Democrats support.

  3. The dogmatic protection of Social Security as it is now structured. SS and particularly Medicare must be reformed, probably with higher retirement age and income caps. I’d cut military spending by a lot. That’s not a Republican position, but I think that’s a true conservative position. I support more flexibility and speed in environmental permits (though, admittedly, I’d still support environmental regulations largely as they stand now). I oppose gun control and seat belt as a primary offense, and support most matters of personal freedoms except when they infringe upon personal freedoms of others.

    And of course, you know I’m against waste. To hear members of our probable new congress talk we can solve this whole budget crisis by cutting waste. And I support that.

  4. Social security is not broke. By 2023 there will be a $4.3 trillion surplus. If there are no adjustments made, all scheduled benefits can be paid out for the next 25 years. After 2037, if no changes have been made, 75% of benefits can be paid. The program built in preparations for baby boomer retirement decades ago. Most people who reason that raising the retirement age will help solve the problem believe that people are living longer. That is not true. Life expectancy after retirement has been steady for thirty years. The reason overall life expectancy in this country has increased is because infant mortality and child death has gone down from 70 years ago. Social security is pretty solid. Benefits don’t need to be cut. The program should be strengthened by eliminating the cap on income that is taxed for the program. Right now, only the first $106 ,000 of income is taxed. I agree with cutting military spending. But get a conservative to agree to that and pigs will fly. Medicare is in more danger than ss. Hopefully the healthcare bill reins in some of the costs of the program. It would be in better shape today if Bush and the Republicans in Congress would have at least found it in their hearts to pay for part D. Now, once again we are left holding the bag so that drug companies can profit.

  5. It’s true that Social Security is in much better shape than, say, Medicare. But I’m looking at this from a budgetary standpoint. The three gaping holes in the U.S. budget are SS, Medicare/MA and the military. All are necessary, but no serious budget balancing/debt reduction plan can work UNLESS it involves new revenue OR cuts to these areas. We all know how easy it is to win running on new revenue, right? The eligibility factors you describe (#4 comment) would be very palatable as part of the solution, but there needs to be some way of rectifying that we might not get to retire at 62 anymore (though I support ways of allowing people who do more physical labor retire for health reasons).

  6. It is impossible for Social Security to add to the deficit. By law, the funds are separate from the budget and the program must pay for itself.

  7. How would you feel doing manual labor, truck driving, teleservices, waiting tables, making sandwiches, teaching teenagers, social work for addicts, etc. into your late sixties or early seventies? Those workers may be physically healthy but they are probably very burned out. If they retire, younger citizens can pick up the job and start paying in.

  8. What I wonder about on the topic of raising the retirement age to get SS and Medicare is that so very many people I know have retired early. Now we are “that age” and are wondering what to do. And with the financial situation of the last several years, we aren’t in shape to retire. Virtually everybody we know that has worked for the government, such as teachers and people who have worked for the US Forest Service, have been given big financial inducements to retire. I know that I and these other people won’t be affected by these changes, but how could we have a system working at odds with itself *** ie paying people to retire early yet expecting them to work longer.

    *** “A system working at odds with itself:” said with tongue half in cheek.

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