EDITORIAL: Caring for the Young, Part Six

Read Part One

Now and then, one of my more politically conservative friends will express the concern that America is on the verge of becoming a Communist nation. I suppose the validity of that concern would depend on how you define “Communist.”

One possible definition would be, “A country where a relatively small number of politically-connected individuals control the federal government.” Under that definition, I might say: “Hey, we’re already there.”

Another definition might be, “A country where the government funds and controls the rearing of the nation’s children.”

Below is a poster from the 1930s, when the Soviet Union was making a concerted effort to encourage parents to enroll their young children in state-funded childcare facilities. Here we have an idyllic country setting: a Soviet “crèche”… a government-supported childcare center, where parents could leave their young children for the day, while they worked productively in the factory shown in the distance.

Childhood was ideologically important to those involved in the Bolshevik Revolution because children had the potential to grow into ideal Communists, and communal early childhood education was seen as a good way of getting all members of the rising generation to hold consistent views.

Here’s another Soviet poster from the same era, where we see babies who look to be about 6 months old crying, “I’m bored at home!” and begging to be taken to the crèche.

In the 1930s, when these images were created, the Soviet childcare centers were doubly important, because young mothers were being encouraged to work outside the home — in factories, on communal farms, in offices. Soviet officials considered peasant parents to be uneducated and given to antiquated child-rearing habits, but necessary as workers for the Communist economic effort — and necessary also to the Bolshevik dream.

Philosophically, the Bolsheviks wanted to recreate society completely, bringing about an ideal world where all people were equal. This notion of equality included women, who up until this point were limited to domestic work.

Following the 1917 revolution, men and women were given equal standing in marriage, and women could get divorced easily; a woman was considered an independent individual, not as someone bound to her husband. She was given the same rights as a man to hold property and become the head of a household. Within three years of the revolution, abortion had been legalized.

And, of course, women were expected to be a part of the workforce, outside of their homes.

If you were to point at these dramatic social changes taking place in the Soviet Union, and classify them as facets of a purely “Communist Agenda,” you would be greatly mistaken. All these same social changes were also taking place under a “Capitalist Agenda” in almost every other European country, and also (more slowly) in the “most Capitalist” country of them all — the U.S.

The difference is that, in the Soviet Union, the push to get women out of the home and into the workforce had two key justifications: to promote the equality of women, and to strengthen the Soviet economy.

Over on the other side of the globe, in the U.S., the push to get women out of the home and into the workforce had two key justifications: to promote the equality of women, and to strengthen the American economy.

I guess that doesn’t actually explain the ‘differences” between the two nations. In fact, maybe the differences are hard to clearly define, when it comes to raising children? There’s one difference that may be of some importance, however. Here in the good ole U.S.A., critics of the government can freely publish and broadcast their complaints and criticisms, without too much fear of imprisonment.

In that regard, we might reference a lengthy discussion about government-funded childcare by reporters Lindsey Burke and Rachel Sheffield in the article, “Universal Preschool’s Empty Promises,” published on the Heritage Foundation website. The Heritage Foundation was founded in 1973 “to advance the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense.”

This “conservative agenda” does not readily embrace government-funded childcare solutions, it would appear. The 2013 article mentioned above criticizes a proposal from the Obama Administration to create a federally-controlled program to care for children ages 0 through 5 years — the so-called “Preschool for All” initiative:

President Obama’s massive federal preschool expansion further entangles Washington in the education and care of the youngest Americans. Washington already has a poor track record for K–12 education, with federal spending nearly tripling over the past three decades while academic achievement and attainment languishes.

Expanding federal intervention in education to include infants, toddlers, three-year-olds, and four-year-olds will crowd out the private provision of care, increase costs for taxpayers, fail to create lasting academic benefits for children — and will fail to address deeper social issues, such as the crisis of single motherhood, which lies at the heart of the type of poverty that affects Americans today. Moreover, this additional federal intervention will largely duplicate existing efforts, as nearly three-quarters of four-year-olds are already enrolled in some form of preschool.

Although I don’t fully embrace the social agenda promoted by the Heritage Foundation, I agree with most of what the authors wrote in the paragraphs just quoted. While proponents of government-sponsored “childcare centers” often quote statistical results from singular experiments like the Perry Preschool Program (see Part Five of this Daily Post series,) the authors of the Heritage Foundation article correctly point to the inability of government programs to duplicate the results of the (very expensive) Perry program.

Does an institutional “preschool” do the best job of preparing children for elementary school? Researchers Katherine A. Magnuson, Christopher J. Ruhm, and Jane Waldfogel used data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study to evaluate the average impact of pre-kindergarten on children’s school readiness — as well as impacts on their behavior. Magnuson and her colleagues found that “pre-kindergarten increases reading and mathematics skills at school entry, but also increases behavioral problems and reduces self-control.”

For most children, “70 to 80 percent of the cognitive gains associated with attending pre-kindergarten have faded out by the spring of the first grade”… although the behavioral effects have not.

Should we be concerned about these references to behavioral problems and reduction of self-control? We know from other studies, for example, that our society has been seeing an epidemic of diagnosed “ADD” and “ADHD” among children.

We wrote about America’s attention-deficit-disorder epidemic in the 2015 Daily Post series: “Drugs in the Classroom.” I’ve not been able to find a coherent explanation for this unsettling development, which is reportedly affecting about one in ten American children — most of whom, it seems, spend the day drugged up on Adderall or other amphetamines.

ADHD amphetamine Adderall. "The effectiveness of ADDERALL® (amphetamine, dextroamphetamine mixed salts) for long-term use has not been systematically evaluated in controlled trials." Photo courtesy Wikipedia.

ADHD drug Adderall. “The effectiveness of ADDERALL® (amphetamine, dextroamphetamine mixed salts) for long-term use has not been systematically evaluated in controlled trials.” Photo courtesy Wikipedia.

What could be causing such an epidemic among young children? Diet…? Stress…? A high divorce rate…?

Preschool…?

Read Part Seven…

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Bill Hudson

Bill Hudson founded the Pagosa Daily Post in 2004 in hopes of making a decent living writing about local politics. The hope remains.