Monday, December 12, 2011

"Better" early childhood isn't the answer to the family crisis - in fact it could make matters worse.

The breakdown of the family is the biggest crisis facing society. A strong statement but I think it's true when one realizes that society as a whole is built on the family. And when the foundation crumbles, the rest of the structure will crumble as well.

Those who see government as the answer to the family crisis and the ills of society usually, in my estimation, make matters worse by prescribing the wrong medicine to the sickness facing us.

It began in earnest in the 1960s with the Great Society programs which sought to reverse the laws of nature and abolish poverty in total. (I think Jesus was right, "The poor you will always have with you." That doesn't mean we do nothing. But if one starts with an Utopian belief it can be eliminated, the resulting solution is usually out of whack as well.)

They set in place a massive welfare system which would lift people above the poverty line by direct cash benefits and programs. Those in poverty and targeted by these programs were largely single women who had children and were without a job.

The altruist desire of ameliorating their blight in fact made the situation worse. It subsidized out of wedlock births and made fathers as bread winners obsolete. The result? More single moms and a future dissolution of the family. Today, out of wedlock births are at record highs - 40% and rising.

Another example is the government's provision of child care and day care which, in effect, pays parents to sent their children to other people to raise them.

In this content there's been a debate at the state Capitol over the direction of early childhood programs. Duane Benson, executive director of Minnesota Early Learning Foundation, in a
Star Tribune opinion piece bemoans the inertia over efforts to reform the current government preschool system.

I would agree with Duane the current system doesn't work, but the answer isn't trying to make government more efficient and competitive. Rather it's restoring parental responsibility and authority for raising kids.

Ultimately, parents raise kids not government programs or government subsidized private programs. Failure to realize this will only take us further down the road away from the right answers. If we were to achieve all of Duane's goals of implementing a government quality rating system for preschool programs, ensuring that child care programs used best practices, and expanding the resources so all low-income kids could access a "high quality early education", we wouldn't get at the fundamental need - parents raising their own kids.

In fact, it only takes us further down the wrong path -- substituting the government or another third party for the parents in kids lives -- and leaving people with the feeling that they've accomplished something without bringing us any closer to "righting" the family ship. And it makes matters worse by further embedding the notion in the minds of the public that "high quality" government preschool programs are the answer.

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