An expense, not an investment

President Obama proposed pre-school for all. This is a nice idea. It is always good for politicians to be associated with cute kids or puppies. But he should not call this an investment. Investments pay off. Head start & and like do not.

The President cited some number he made up. Other studies find less benefit. Head Start has been in business since Lyndon Johnson thought it us in the 1960s. It seemed a good idea and it works at first. But the benefits are evaporated by the time the kids get to second grade.

This is often a problem. You all can read many of the studies by following links within the links. There are lots of studies. Most find little or no lasting value. One, involving only 58 students that was done by an advocate of pre-school is the one where President Obama got his exaggerated numbers, which he, BTW, inflated even more.

Pre-school and early childhood are important times for development. But it is hard to know what works. I worried about this when I had small kids, until I came to the simple conclusion that good parenting is like vitamin C. You need to get enough, but once you get enough any additional input is literally pissed away. I knew parents who trained their kids will "Little Einstein" and other programs. The kids seemed smarter when they were little, but the ordinary kids caught up. One of my sons learned to speak very good Polish when he was four years old. I think it was good, but he forgot it all. There is only so much you can cram into those little head and expect it to stay there.

The only argument I can think of to push pre-school is one that most people fear to make. Poor kids come from families with bad habits. If we used early school to inculcate culture change, it might be good. But this is what PC-Preschools refuse to do.

We should be clear about the goal. A century ago, we successful assimilated millions of immigrant children and made them into Americans by creating culture change among them. My family benefited from this assimilation and I am grateful for it. If we use pre-school to do that, I am content. Otherwise we are just pissing away the resource.

Posted by Christine & John at February 13, 2013 7:01 PM
Comments
Comment #361653

“But this is what PC-Preschools refuse to do.”

I very much doubt that you are correct on that score. An integral part of pre-school programs, like Headstart, is socialization training. In fact, that is what it is primarily about with a little learning thrown in.

The fact that the benefits tend to be lost over time is not an argument against the pre-school programs. The programs have demonstrable benefits. The challenge is building on those early benefits. In a recent interview, Obama had this to say about the entire issue: “What we have to do is combine creativity and evidence-based approaches. So let’s not use ideology, let’s figure out what works, and figure out how we scale it up.”

By the way, do you really think that your son would have forgotten his Polish if he had continued to use it during the subsequent years?

Posted by: Rich at February 13, 2013 9:11 PM
Comment #361658

Rich

Evidence is that they are at the same place as their peers by second or third grade. So the head start does nothing that reach to adulthood. Hence is it not an investment that pays off.

Re Polish - if he continued to learn, he would keep it. but the problem is whether it did him very much good to start earlier, at four instead of five, for example. Language is a little different, since it is acquired at very early age. And a kid needs to acquire a first language early on.

But even in the case of my son, other kids who started later would catch up and some pass.

The only measure of “investment” is persistence of the effect. If head start kids graduate more from HS or commit less crime, it pays off. But they do not, as the study done by Obama’s own people shows.

On the other hand, the school choice program I wrote about in an earlier post DOES pay off and doesn’t cost much, yet Obama wanted to kill that. WHy?

Posted by: C&J at February 13, 2013 11:03 PM
Comment #361670

Nothing but a babysitting service paid for by the state scheme.
Then, when somebody suggests cutting such unneccesary programs to finally address our outrageous debt, they can be labeled as child haters who have declared war on children.

Posted by: kctim at February 14, 2013 10:23 AM
Comment #361680

Rich is right about the head start program. Socialization and the basics such as the alphabet and counting 1 thru 10 are taught and help the children acclimate to school. In fact without head start the kids may be held back at the kindergarten or first grade level causing them to repeat the grade.

Posted by: j2t2 at February 14, 2013 1:12 PM
Comment #361681

Well, let me violate your Conservative PC, and say that pre-school was of immense help to me. They had me reading before I was in Kindergarten, and used to spending time in school by that time as well. They were also able (and this is particularly important) to intervene before I reached school age to help me deal with my autism-related deficits, like making eye contact, dealing with classmates.

It must be nice to be a conservative. Since you offer no real policies of your own, it’s not like you’re actually having to defend a separate policy. You just get to pretend like everything just works itself out if you let it!

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 14, 2013 1:21 PM
Comment #361686

Stephen

“Well, let me violate your Conservative PC, and say that pre-school was of immense help to me. They had me reading before I was in Kindergarten, and used to spending time in school by that time as well. They were also able (and this is particularly important) to intervene before I reached school age to help me deal with my autism-related deficits, like making eye contact, dealing with classmates.”

Stephen, you are a perfect example of the “cradle to grave” mentality of big government liberals. Remember Hillary’s comment, “it takes a village”. Let’s remove the influence of family and place the raising of children in the hands of government. The more of Stephen’s comments I read, the more I understand his hatred of the founding father’s documents. The founding fathers believed in the individuals right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The socialist believes it is the responsibility of the government to provide these things.

“It must be nice to be a conservative. Since you offer no real policies of your own, it’s not like you’re actually having to defend a separate policy. You just get to pretend like everything just works itself out if you let it!”

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 14, 2013 1:21 PM

This is coming from a person who would defend Obama to the last breath. Obama, who has never governed. Obama, who has isolated himself from governing and has given authority to his lackeys to do the governing. In this way, Obama can never be blamed for not accomplishing anything. Obama is in perpetual campaigning mode and has been for 5 years; always attacking the opponent and never governing. Name one time when Obama has governed without leaving himself an option of attacking the opposition?

Posted by: George at February 14, 2013 2:00 PM
Comment #361694

Stephen

It may have helped you. But you would have learned to read anyway. My daughter went to pre-school (we paid) and she learned to read by the time she was in kindergarten. My son attended pre-school (same thing) he learned to read when he was in first grade.

Kids have a pace of their own.

Re your particular problem - cured? Maybe if they had not identified the issue early, you would have grown out of it. Intervention by experts is not always best. My middle son had some problems as a boy. The counselors told me that he needed all sorts of help and that he probably would not be able to graduate HS w/o special help. They wanted to give him drugs. I told them (nicely) that they were full of shit. I worked with him. He learned math, science and even some Latin (I believe in the classics). He is not a rocket scientist today, but he graduated from college and is well adjusted, happy and independent.

I am morally certain that the regime of tests and “help” they would have given him would have caused him more harm and perhaps made him perpetually dependent on continued care and special treatment.

It might be nice to have universal daycare with great instructors, but you know the Federal government will mess it up. The bureaucracy will be incapable of delivering at a reasonable price and it will become a featherbedding scheme.

YOu are too young to recall how the Feds did in the 1970s. I remember. Obama can talk all he wants but there are things he cannot have. It is his continuing inexperience in the real world that keeps him from seeing it.

The scientists who studied head start came to the reluctant conclusion that it didn’t really help. The Obama folks tried to hold up the report, but it came out.

Parents are important. I taught my kids lots of things. I regret that not all parents are good. But the state cannot substitute.

Posted by: C&J at February 14, 2013 3:52 PM
Comment #361698

“The only measure of “investment” is persistence of the effect.”

That’s not true, C&J. Take your own example of the investment that your son made in learning Polish. It was certainly a successful investment. Yet, it was not persistent. Why? Well conditions changed. It’s use no longer had utility or benefit for him. My wife also conversed, read and wrote in Polish during her K-8 grade period. By the time she got out of high school, she retained only a rudimentary ability. Its a very different language from English and requires consistent use to maintain competence.

What may be important about pre-school programs such as Headstart is not so much the skill acquisition, per se, but their emphasis on conditions for skill acquisition, i.e., socialization, values, family support and involvement, etc. This is what drops out as students enter the more formal traditional setting.

Ironically, Headstart is attempting to do exactly what you claim it is not doing: inculcating cultural change for children from poor families with bad habits. If you doubt that, just go to their website and review the program structure.

I am not suggesting that Headstart is entirely successful in its mission. That is an empirical question. However, its orientation to shaping the cultural environment for learning should recommend it to you.

Posted by: Rich at February 14, 2013 4:41 PM
Comment #361700

Rich

I am glad he learned Polish. I do lots of things for this kind of satisfaction. I learned Greek, which I can no longer read. But they are not investments in that they cost more than they produced.

The simple difference between an investment and a cost is that an investment may be expected to produce more return that the expense of getting it. A cost produces less.

Re head start - it has not been successful up until now. If indeed it becomes a way to improve the culture and habits of the habitually poor, I think it is a good thing. But I seriously doubt that the Obama folks will stand for that.

Consider a few cultural facts. Generally speaking, habits of ghetto blacks, Gypsies, and poor people in Appalachia are dysfunctional and should be changed. Habits of many immigrants are dysfunctional in the American context. This statement is true in that we see the results every day, but it is offensive to the multicultural establishment.

Re languages - languages are hard to maintain. Most people have trouble maintaining even one. That is why I oppose bilingual education if it helps maintain or speak in a language that is not English. This is another program that experience shows in dysfunctional.

Speaking again of head start - we should make no attempt to hire Spanish speaking teachers and all work should be conducted in standard English.

My son learned Polish because people in his pre-school did not speak English.

Posted by: C&J at February 14, 2013 5:12 PM
Comment #361709

George-

Stephen, you are a perfect example of the “cradle to grave” mentality of big government liberals. Remember Hillary’s comment, “it takes a village”. Let’s remove the influence of family and place the raising of children in the hands of government. The more of Stephen’s comments I read, the more I understand his hatred of the founding father’s documents. The founding fathers believed in the individuals right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The socialist believes it is the responsibility of the government to provide these things.

Funny. My family is full of ambitious folks, who often made good in their lives. My brother, my uncles, my grandfather. My mother worked for top law firms and hospitals, my father was top salesman at his workplace.

And me? Well, I’m not published yet, but at this point, I’ve written well over five hundred pages on a novel, in the space of just a couple years, going back and forth between a manuscript draft (currently on pad 8, page 69 or so out of a hundred, and the digital draft.

I created three separate languages for it, created unique and distinctive architectures for the different cities, gave them populations, and plotted out much of the story in advance with great detail. In addition to that, I’ve done a ton of preparation for future stories with several roads, 122 worlds, ten standard languages between them(with more world-specific languages to come), and a multitude of gate ways to them all, explicitly assigned to them. There are already a number of unique species, both humanoid and otherwise, classifications for spirits, and a whole system of magic put together.

I don’t lack for ambition. And I’ve never needed to be poorer to be this motivated. I was motivated just fine to start this whole thing out when my family was better off.

What you operate from is basically recycled propaganda you’re too happily inured to the real world to recognize as such. It doesn’t help that you’ve probably driven off many of your liberal friends and family, so there’s no check on reality for any of your allegations. you simply look at me as a collection of types and tropes. That, though, doesn’t add up to you actually knowing me. It does add up to your tripe being patently offensive to me.

What I want is a system where people can dare greatly, where people aren’t having to struggle so nonstop just to survive. That doesn’t mean I want a stereotypical welfare state. It just means I don’t think you have to subject people to third world levels of poverty to make them want to do better.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 14, 2013 6:25 PM
Comment #361711

Stephen:

“Funny. My family is full of ambitious folks, who often made good in their lives. My brother, my uncles, my grandfather. My mother worked for top law firms and hospitals, my father was top salesman at his workplace”

Tell us Stephen, how many of your successful relatives support Obama? How many are liberals?

“That doesn’t mean I want a stereotypical welfare state. It just means I don’t think you have to subject people to third world levels of poverty to make them want to do better.”

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 14, 2013 6:25 PM

You do want a welfare state and you support a president that wants to turn America into a third world nation. Stephen, you never answer the charges; you always try to change the subject. To major on a minor. What is your answer to the growth of those on food stamps and welfare, of the standard of living dropping in America, or of the loss of the middle-class? I asked you this question:

“Name one time when Obama has governed without leaving himself an option of attacking the opposition?”

Obama has never governed on anything. What has he led on…nothing; he is in perpetual campaign mode and it is either he, his supporters, or you spouting the CYA of Obama and blame someone else.

Posted by: George at February 14, 2013 8:41 PM
Comment #361729
You do want a welfare state and you support a president that wants to turn America into a third world nation.

So George what third world countries governments are increasing funding for head start programs? On the other hand many first world countries do. So I would think that you have your numbers and political parties mixed up. After all the conservative movement has headed us towards a third world status for decades now.

http://futureofchildren.org/futureofchildren/publications/docs/05_03_04.pdf


C&J you cherry picker you.

http://mediamatters.org/research/2013/01/16/media-cherry-pick-facts-to-falsely-label-head-s/192284

Posted by: j2t2 at February 15, 2013 11:28 AM
Comment #361738

j2t2

The gains are not sustained. It is nice if people seem to be helped. But you have to compare them to kids who were similar but not in head start.

The only way to do that is to compare kids who wanted to get in and were qualified to do so, but did not.

In the case of the voucher system I mentioned in the earlier post, we have such a blind sample and at no additional cost we can improve outcomes.

In the case of Head Start we find that kids who finish seem better than they were. This is a very bad way to judge, since we lack comparison and people doing the assessments are often the same ones advocating the system.

What we need is double blind studies, where we compare head start kids to similar kids who were not in the program and the people doing the study do not know which they are judging.

In any case, even the article you link has lots of caveats. It is certainly not clear after a half century that this program works. This alone is an indictment of they system. If after fifty years you are still unsure, it must mean that benefits if they exist are small and uncertain.

Let me say something practical, that you do not know. We lived in Norway in the early 1990s. We had three small kids and were ENTITLED to day care. We went to get it and were told it was not available. The very honest person we talked to told us that we were indeed entitled. But we couldn’t get it. We asked if we could get it from another source. No, she answered, because we had the right to get it from the government.

You can declare rights, but you cannot always get them.

Posted by: C&J at February 15, 2013 3:56 PM
Comment #361746
The gains are not sustained. It is nice if people seem to be helped. But you have to compare them to kids who were similar but not in head start.

So let me get this straight C&J, Head Start program is a program that gets young kids ready for school with basics like the alphabet and numbers. Yet Conservatives are wanting to get rid of it because it doesn’t make these same kids ready for college? Or because you cannot tell them apart from other kids by the time they are in the 3rd grade? That to me sounds like it is successful. When you cannot tell those disadvantaged apart from those that have the necessary tools to enter school then victory has been achieved yet to hear you guys tell it it is a defeat.

Posted by: j2t2 at February 15, 2013 8:04 PM
Comment #361748

j2t2

It is not sustained past the 3rd grade. So the kids do indeed start our ahead of peers (i.e. head start) but the others catch up by 3rd grade. I don’t think it is worth it to have smarter second graders whose start stops the next year.

It is not that we cannot tell them apart from the “advantaged” It is that we cannot tell them apart from similar kids.

In many ways, this is like Obama’s cash for clunkers. It has a short term boost, but doesn’t last and costs money.

Let me ask a simple investment question. If you were offered two investments with a ten year maturity. You had to hold them that long and they would be worth the same at the end of that time. Would you pay extra in order to have one reach 30% of its final value a bit faster if you knew that it would not sustain the lead?

Now let’s return to head start. You may believe that the benefit of getting the kids up faster is worth the expense even if it does not last. You may want to give a gift. Of course, you don’t want to do it with your own money, but that is a value judgment. BUT you cannot call it an investment, since an investment implies that you expect to reap greater value than you put in.

Liberals have learned to use the word “investment” when they really mean expense.

Many years ago, one of my liberal friends bought a very expensive bike that I thought he could not afford. He told me that it was an investment because it should have cost more than he paid for it. He said “no” when I asked him if he thought he could sell it for more than he paid and I explained to him that it could not be called an investment. Furthermore, if he “invested” much more like that he soon would soon be broke.

Posted by: C&J at February 15, 2013 8:26 PM
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