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No Preschooler Left Behind
[January 13, 2003]

By S. M. Oliva

Thomas Watkins, Michigan’s superintendent of public schools, is on a mission to expand his authority beyond the traditional K-12 boundaries. If given his way, every child in the state—practically from birth—would become the exclusive property of state authorities. Of course, Watkins doesn’t quite phrase it that way. Rather than acknowledge his desire to forcibly remove children from their homes, the superintendent speaks of “investment” in society’s future.

Last November, Watkins proposed the following:

Every four-year-old in Michigan shall be offered a high quality pre-kindergarten learning opportunity by the 2006 school year. This voluntary early childhood development and educational program shall be established according to nationally recognized, high quality standards. It shall be provided at no additional charge to all Michigan four year olds without reducing funding for existing education, health and child development programs.

What Watkins calls “opportunity” is nothing more than a scheme to provide state-run, taxpayer-financed daycare for every 4-year-old in the state. And Watkins won’t stop there. He also laments of the state’s  “neglecting to invest in the zero to age four years,” meaning he foresees a world where every infant, toddler, and pre-adolescent is under the unified banner of Michigan public schools. And while Watkins assures people that his pre-school plan is “voluntary,” this too is a lie; public education cannot maintain its monopoly without force, which means once this plan is adopted, it’s only a matter of time before parents will be forced to surrender their children, even at the tender ages of three or four.

Watkins’ proposal is the latest phase of the public schooling’s vicious cycle. He admits as much by citing a “study” that concludes: "Studies show over one-third of American children enter kindergarten unprepared to benefit from classroom instruction." This not only ignores the fact that two-thirds of children are ready, but also the reason that the other students are not prepared. What Watkins and his study never considered was whether children actually “benefit” from schooling at the age of five. The fact formal schooling becomes compulsory at age five is not an objective standard, but merely a reflection of how much the public schooling monopoly is able to get away with. As Watkins demonstrates, the state’s true goal is to get their hand on every child regardless of age (it gives a new meaning to “no child left behind,” doesn’t it?)

Public school is no place for any child, but certainly not for four- and five-year olds. This is the age at which a child is forming his true sense of self—his ego. This is not just a matter of personality, but cognition. The content of a child’s mind develops constantly throughout his lifetime, but the method of his thinking is formed at the ages of 0-5. Consider how much a child learns in the first five year of life. From birth, he learns to focus his senses, integrate experiences, and master complex sets of skills. Most importantly, a child learns conceptualization—meaning language. Nothing a teenager learns in a public high school can even begin to match these achievements.

A five-year old entering public school is literally a train hitting a brick wall. All individual development immediately halts, and the brick wall of “socialization” becomes primary. Schooling advocates talk about “socialization” as if it’s the Holy Grail. Yet what does the term actually mean? Defined precisely, “socialization” is simply another application of “socialism.” In other words, it’s a word that describes the process of destroying individualism through forced collectivism.

A four-year old does not learn from being thrown into a pack of other four-year olds. He does not learn to work well with others. How could he? You can’t expect someone to work with others before they’ve even formed their own selfish identity. More notably, you can’t educate children in age-peer groups that young. Suppose you took a group of 10-month old babies and forced them to play in a group without any permanent adult presence. Would the babies learn to walk or talk? Of course not. A baby has nothing to learn from his peer, but everything to learn from older children and adults. Children learn from those who have learned before them, not from their struggling contemporaries.

Socialization is dangerous at all age-levels. In the teenage years, socialization leads to a gang-mentality among competing social groups, the isolation of individuals, and in many cases an inability to cope with reality that leads to drug and alcohol abuse. In the preschool years, socialization can destroy a child’s cognitive learning. A “socialized” four-year old will never learn to assert his own mind. He will never learn to trust his own mental processes when they conflict with the whims of other children. He will learn that obedience to authority is the highest social value. What he will not learn is reading, mathematics, or critical thinking. Oh, he may learn the superficial vestiges of these subjects, but he will never experience true mastery. This is why so many nine- and ten-year olds aren’t fully literate.

Bureaucrats like Watkins blame this—incredibly—on not enough schooling. Watkins says the failure of public education justifies its expansion into the four-year old age bracket. If only we can get the children early enough, he tells us, we can get it right. The abject failure of the system in its current form does nothing to dissuade him. Public education isn’t just a jobs program for unions, but a religion among its true believers. Watkins has complete faith in his system, even though the facts tell us otherwise.

And the only way he can do that is if the parents of Michigan buy into his rhetoric that he wants to “invest” in their children rather than destroy them. One can only hope that Michigan parents value their children enough not to let that happen.


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