Obama, education and the Head Start failure: why billions more will hit the drain

From Ben Stein’s column this morning:

It was as if the Bodysnatchers had gotten hold of Mr. Obama and put a sixth grader’s brain in him. There were only a few glimpses of Obama the “intellectual” socialist on display tonight. Mostly, his speech sounded as if it could have been given by any 1958 Republican elementary school student. The problem is that this is not 1958 America.

On education:

When Mr. Obama says he’s going to reform American education by setting higher standards, he is just baying at the moon. Most of the nation’s public school pupils are not achieving at even close to the rates of the students in other advanced nations. The problem is intensely concentrated among the nonwhite students of this nation. If we cannot find a way to get these kids working, and working hard, to reach basic educational standards, we will face educational and job force catastrophe. For their sake and for the nation’s sake, they have to be helped to help themselves. Unless they can be brought up to standards of other industrial nations, we will become a third world country. This remediation can be done and must be done.

True, but it begins in the home.  A home with two parents.  As long as entitlements keep 70% of black children fatherless, we won’t find any easy solution.  A hallmark study in the 90s showed a three million word gap between 3-year-olds who grew up in households of professional parents versus those in the projects because the parents of the “professional” toddlers spoke to the kids more frequently.  They heard more words

This number came from the data that showed welfare children heard, on average, 616 words per hour, while children from professional families (essentially children with college educated parents) heard 2153 words per hour.  The longitudinal research in the following years demonstrated a high correlation between vocabulary size at age three and language test scores at ages nine and ten in areas of vocabulary, listening, syntax, and reading comprehension.

Does the $7.235 billion budgeted for government preschool, aka Head Start help?  No.  Even the liberal think tank the Brookings Institute concluded earlier this week:

The study demonstrated that children’s attendance in Head Start has no demonstrable impact on their academic, socio-emotional, or health status at the end of first grade. That’s right. If you were a mother who lost the lottery, couldn’t get your child into Head Start, and had to care for her at home, she was no worse off at the end of first grade than she would have been had she gotten into Head Start. That isn’t to say that she was well off. In the critical area of vocabulary, 3-year-olds entered the study at the 29th percentile in terms of national norms and finished first grade at the 24th percentile whether or not they attended Head Start. That is not good

No, that is not good.  The War on Poverty turned into the War on the Black Family, and children are no better off than they were sans government preschool.  I’m awed by the conclusion set forth in Brookings:

The study went virtually unnoticed. You can’t find anything about it in the Washington Post or the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal or any other media outlet that serves the general public. The Post has 11 reporters covering education. Why isn’t a report on the effectiveness of the nation’s largest federally administered education program, one that serves thousands of needy children within the Post’s metro area, deemed worthy of newsprint? Is Head Start so sacrosanct that bad news about it is to be ignored?

Emphasis added. In the Age of Obama, no paper will print let alone admit that billions of dollars to help “lift” poor children educationally is a waste right before The One Speaks to re-Sputnik our education system (or something). 

Can you see the headline ever appearing?  Study: Head Start a failure, billions of dollars wasted by liberals

No, this would have been printed instead: Evil Republicans want to cut 7 billion for preschool for poor, black children.

Michelle Malkin adds:

Our government already spends more per capita on education than any other of the 34 wealthiest countries in the world except for Switzerland, according to recent analysis of data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Overall inflation-adjusted K-12 spending has tripled over the past 40 years, the Michigan-based Mackinac Center for Public Policy points out. Yet American test scores and graduation rates are stagnant. One in 10 high schools is a dropout factory. And our students’ performance in one of the most prestigious global math competitions has been so abysmal that the U.S. simply withdrew altogether.

Dumping more money we don’t have won’t solve these problems. Dumping teachers unions might help, but that won’t happen any time soon. Reinvigorating American schools will begin not with money but a renewed interest in the basics of education–real math, reading, and writing. Core Knowledge rather than patting Johnny on the head and reassuring his self-worth even though he can’t answer which of the earth’s poles has the coldest weather.


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