Robert Knight

What’s the real message behind Barack Obama’s call in his State of the Union speech for taxpayer-funded “universal” preschool and his trip to a Georgia preschool last Thursday for photo ops?

It’s that the government wants to get its hands on our children even earlier.

From the time children are five or six years old up through their senior year, government schools run by leftwing teachers unions have them at least seven hours a day, five days a week during most of the year.

They use that time to teach them just enough English and math to pass standardized tests, while force feeding them a secular, progressive mindset that views American capitalism as a world problem and more government as the solution. They also teach them Kinsey-inspired sex education that corrupts kids and has helped spike the number of sexually transmitted infections to more than 20 million annually.

Finally, they impart history in a way that implies that as soon as we are rid of America’s pesky Christian heritage, if we ever had one, the sooner we can achieve “equality.” I say all this fully aware that there are many dedicated teachers trying their best to convey knowledge and even morality in an increasingly failing system. This isn’t about them, as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie made clear when he took on the teachers unions.

Preschools vary in quality and outcome. In the better ones, some real education occurs. In the best ones, children learn that they are unique beings created in the image of God by a loving Creator. They have souls, not just body parts. In other preschools, it’s daycare with an educational façade. And speaking of facades, let’s take a closer look at Head Start, the giant federal experiment in early childhood education that Mr. Obama wants to expand.

Back in the 1990s, I wrote a report on Head Start for the Heritage Foundation. I was shocked to learn that claims for its effectiveness rested almost entirely on a longitudinal study of 123 low-income black children in the High Scope/Perry Preschool Program in Ypsilanti, Michigan, which differed greatly from a typical Head Start center. Armed with Perry data, Head Start backers intoned year after year that “studies show” Head Start will eliminate poverty, depression and even acne as we know it.

Head Start has gobbled more than 180 billion taxpayer dollars since its debut as part of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society in 1965. A clue that it’s been oversold as educational is that it’s run by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), not the Department of Education.

A recent Heritage Foundation report by Lindsey Burke and David Muhlhausen notes that HHS finished collecting data on Head Start in 2008 and issued findings in December 2012 although the study was dated October 2012. “The timing of the release,” they write, “raises questions about whether HHS was trying to bury the findings in the report, which shows, among other outcomes, that by third grade, the $8 billion Head Start program had little to no impact on cognitive, social-emotional, health, or parenting practices of participants. On a few measures, access to Head Start had harmful effects on children.”

Meanwhile, the education establishment (“the blob” as William Bennett calls it) applauded Mr. Obama’s gambit. Steve Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers, gushed that this was “one of the most important education initiatives, maybe, since Brown v. Board of Education,” the 1954 Supreme Court ruling that ended school segregation.

He stopped just short of claiming that the estimated $10 billion to $25 billion program would halt global warming and bring peace to the Middle East. But he tipped his hand, telling the Washington Post that grabbing the kids at age 4 is a precursor to universal preschool education starting at age 3 or 2. “It makes sense from a purely practical point of view to consolidate 4-year-olds before you move on to 3,” he said.

Next, they’ll be promoting “universal infant care.” Why not? The blob honestly believes that its “experts” are smarter than parents. Pay no attention to the growing evidence that home-schooled children excel in every discipline.

Government education is the ultimate progressive solution. As the Post put it, Obama’s proposal “has lifted the hopes of economists and liberals who have long considered early childhood education the best way to help close the gap between the rich and the poor.”

No, it’s not. The best way to ensure success is to shore up marriage, not to create more government programs that supplant the functions of the family.

If you want to know more about why Christians, Jews and other parents should consider removing their children from government schools, not put them there even sooner, I recommend Bruce Shortt’s book The Harsh Truth About Public Schools or the documentary and book IndoctriNation: Public Schools and the Decline of Christianity by Colin Gunn and Joaquin Fernandez.

But be forewarned:You won’t be able to say later that you just didn’t know.


Robert Knight

Robert Knight is an author, senior fellow for the American Civil Rights Union and a frequent contributor to Townhall.