Thursday, January 14, 2010

With liberty and pre-k for all?

The Home School Legal Defense Association has recently published an article that analyzed the risks and benefits of government-mandated and controlled Pre-K. In the article, Smother Mother Strikes Again: Why Government Should Stay Out of Pre-K, the author writes

Early education constitutes yet another intrusion of big government, this time imposing itself directly into the home. Institutionalized, government-approved pre-K programs threaten parents’ right to direct the upbringing and education of their children by forcing subjective screenings and state-approved, politicized curriculum upon America’s impressionable youth. Some pre-K bills, including H.R. 2343, include provisions for socio-emotional/mental health screenings, which, unlike vision or hearing tests, are based on inherently subjective diagnostic criteria. After children are identified as needing mental health services or medication, it is not clear if their parents will have the ability to refuse such treatment. Similarly, once trusting parents enroll their children in institutionalized early education, there is no guarantee that they will have any warning or authority over what their child is exposed to in the classroom.

The article goes on to point out that while such Pre-K programs are completely optional, parents may not know the programs are optional or may feel pressured into enrolling their children in them. This is a valid concern, but my concern is much greater: that these programs will become mandatory.

As we seem so apt to do, we quickly forget how things were just thirty or forty years ago. In my grandmother's school-days, as well as my mother's, kindergarten was not mandatory. For my grandmother, it wasn't even an option yet. When she entered school she was nearly seven years old and entered directly into a first-grade class. When my mother entered school, it was through a then-voluntary kindergarten class. Yes, voluntary kindergarten.

These days kindergarten in the United States has become mandatory, as it is a normal, regular part of an elementary school. As with most educational "experiments" the U.S. government implements, voluntary kindergarten became mandatory kindergarten. When this country was founded, public education was not mandatory. When public schools were first formed, they were completely optional. Then they became mandatory. Then there was voluntary kindergarten. Now it's mandatory. So you can see why I am concerned that what we now call "VPK" (voluntary pre-K) will quickly become a compulsory part of our children's education.

I already hear some of you saying, "well, you homeschool your children so why are you even worried about pre-K?" My concern lies in all of the comments we get about our children, our oldest in particular. "She's sharp as a tack! Are you going to put her in pre-K?" The assumption seems to be that without pre-K, my daughter's intelligence will somehow vanish. Then I get comments like, "I know you're going to homeschool her, but why not put her in pre-K so she can learn to read?" This is how the government will lure parents into the pre-K trap. "Try it, you'll like it". Then before we know it, it will have become an accepted part of compulsory public education.

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