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The Libertarian

Vin Suprynowicz

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Sure enough, just as I predicted last week, a preliminary assessment of Clark County second-grade students released by the county school district a few days back, supposedly designed to weigh the impacts of all-day versus half-day kindergarten, weighed only academic progress.

(Kids who had attended all-day kindergarten scored a marginal 3.1 percentage points higher on a reading test than their half-day cohorts, with those who entered kindergarten not speaking English showing an even larger improvement of 8 percentage points.)

Although district officials raced to claim the study shows the wisdom of handing them more millions to hire more day-care workers (surprise), the study is in fact “laughable,” in the words of state Sen. Bob Beers, R-Las Vegas.

“Studies do show remnant effects of full-day kindergarten by the second grade,” Sen. Beers points out. “Few show effects by the third grade. Most don’t show any effect by junior high school and high school. ... Calling it longitudinal is over the top.”

But the real point here is in the fine print, where surveys like the 1998-99 RAND Corporation study of all-day kindergarten are admitted to show no real long-term academic advantage, but the postscript is typically added that at least “There were no negative findings.”

That’s because no one looks for a link between additional years of incarceration in the government homogeneity camps -- an earlier stripping of children away from their families as primary instructors -- and the ongoing growth of social pathologies among the young: violent crime, vandalism, unwed pregnancy, escapist drug use, an abysmal ignorance of our traditions of liberty, hatred of enterprise and success, a thorough scorn for their parents’ beliefs and standards.

Even though these unpleasant and socially costly outcomes track perfectly with the progressively greater amount of time kids have spent in government-run “schools” over the past 70 years (up through 1950, remember, the majority of Americans did not stick around long enough to graduate high school -- and no one thought that was any kind of “crisis”) -- most Americans will look at you like you’re nuts if you posit any CAUSAL relationship between these social problems and progressively grabbing our kids away from their parents and locking them up in the state’s mandatory youth propaganda camps for ever more hours, days, and years.

What is “kindergarten”?

Friedrich Froebel opened the first kindergarten, in Germany, in 1840, as a means of “socializing” children, writes Joel Spring, in “The American School, 1642-1885.”

“As the name implies, the kindergarten was conceived as a garden of children to be cultivated in the same manner as plants.”

The idea was borrowed and brought to America in 1873, when the first kindergarten opened in St. Louis. Its purpose, according to its superintendent, William Torrey Harris, was not to teach reading writing and ’rithmetic, but to rescue children from poverty and bad families by bringing them into the school system early in life.

Education historian Marvin Lazerson, in his study of the Boston school system, found 19th century administrators there saw kindergarten as an indirect means of teaching slum parents how to run good homes. The goal was always to increase the child’s time under government supervision, and to do away with “idle time” -- by which these experts meant any time away from government supervision in the schools -- since (in the words of a Massachusetts superintendent of schools in 1897) “Idleness is an opportunity for evil-doing.”

Mr. Spring comments: “By the early twentieth century the school in fact had expanded its functions into areas not dreamed of in the early part of the previous century. Kindergartens, playgrounds, school showers, nurses, social centers and Americanization centers turned the school into a central social agency in urban America. ... Within this framework, the school became a major agency for social control.”

“Today’s advocates of “early intervention” and year-round schools seem to share that objective,” comments Sheldon Richman, author of the 1994 book “Separating School and State.”

In his talk “Nine Assumptions of Schooling -- and Twenty-one Facts the Institution Would Rather Not Discuss” (see http://www.spinninglobe.net/9assumptions.htm) New York City (and state) Teacher of the Year John Taylor Gatto asks:

“Did you know that in Sweden, a country legendary for its quality of life and a nation which beats American school performance in every academic category, a kid isn’t allowed to start school before the age of 7? The hard-headed Swedes don’t want to pay for the social pathologies attendant on ripping a child away from his home and mother and dumping him into a pen with strangers. ...

“Did you know that the entire Swedish school sequence is only 9 years long, a net 25 percent time and tax savings over our own 12-year sequence? ...

“Did you know that Hong Kong, a country with a population the size of Norway’s, beats Japan in every scientific and mathematical category in which the two countries compete? Did you know that Hong Kong has a school year ten and one half weeks shorter than Japan’s? How on earth do they manage that if longer school years translate into higher performance? ...

“Or did you know that in Flemish Belgium with the shortest school year in the developed world that the kids regularly finish in the top three nations in the world in academic competition? Is it the water in Belgium or what? Because it can’t be the passionate commitment to government forced schooling, which they don’t seem to possess. ...”

Why has no one told us this stuff, Mr. Gatto asks, rhetorically.

He then answers his own question. “If you trust journalism or the professional educational establishment to provide you with data you need to think for yourself in the increasingly fantastic socialist world of compulsion schooling, you are certainly the kind of citizen who would trade his cow for a handful of colored beans.”

Mind you, Mr. Gatto doesn’t say the government schools are the ONLY problem. Excessive hours spent in a semi-hypnotic state in front of the TV also strip children of the kind of REAL education they used to get by spending their afternoons and weekends moving freely among and interacting with adult society in their home towns and neighborhoods.

But the problem, he makes clear, starts with the state system of compulsion-based youth homogeneity camps.

A kid who hates school isn’t a kid in need of doping up. He (or she) is a kid who still stands a chance of leading a useful and productive life.

But the goal of the educrats’ system is to get that kid to shuffle about to the sound of bells, a glazed expression on his or her face, vowing under his breath to “never look at another damned book once I get out of this place for as long as I live” -- as early and for as long as possible. Because this renders them “successfully socialized”!

The schools aren’t failing. They’re doing just what they were designed to do. The question is why we continue to allow it.

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