Susan Nell had planned to keep her son, Jimmy, home with her at least until he was 4. But panic struck when Jimmy was still a baby. The word at the playground was that preschool could make all the difference for kids, socially and academically. Other parents were madly researching preschools and signing up to reserve spaces two to three years in advance, fearing that choice schools would be filled if they waited. Nell began signing up, too. ``I don't want to say I was keeping up with the Joneses,'' she said. ``But I didn't want him to fall behind.''and
For $11,425 a school year, a 3-year-old can attend Stratford School five days a week, including after-school care until 6 p.m. The Stratford School, with campuses in San Jose, Los Gatos and Sunnyvale, focuses on academics as well as socialization. Amid the playing, teachers devote a portion of the day to activities such as counting and saying the alphabet. ``My belief is that children are capable of learning a lot at an early age,'' said Joe Wagner, Stratford's founder and president. ``But I think socialization is equally as important.''… …When she began her preschool search for her daughter, Susanne Millar kept track of 20 preschools on a spreadsheet with categories such as Teaching Philosophy, Adult/Child Ratio, Teacher Turnover Rate, Diapers/No Diapers and Music Programs. Preschool, Millar said, ``is becoming, at least from a socialization perspective, a requirement.'' Her daughter, Samantha, 3, attends Alphabet Soup in Cupertino twice a week.One can’t help but wonder how different Samantha’s socialization skills would be had her mother ignored working on her spreadsheet and, instead, spent that time with her daughter. One also can’t help but wonder why educators and parents think that the socialization skills of a three year-old should be shaped by other three year-olds. If lessons in socialization are that important, why didn’t the mother consider the Adult/Child Ratio at her own home? Misguided choices by the affluent, however, are not the only issue at hand. Enter a television commercial from First5 California, an advocacy group that is spearheading the notion of universal (albeit voluntary) preschool in California. In the commercial we see two police officers cruising in their squad car. One of the officers says, while motioning to the back, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could keep kids out of this back seat?” The other officer chimes in, “There’s already a program which does just that!” She (yes, it’s a female officer that ultimately gives the punch-line) then rhetorically asks, “So, what is this great crime prevention program?” And, with a look of motherly reassurance, she simply says, “It’s called… preschool.” We’re then informed that studies have shown that children who attend preschool are, among other things, less likely to end up in jail as an adult. Well sure, I can see where a kid from an impoverished family would stand a better chance in a healthy, safe environment as opposed to being locked up at home waiting for mommy to get home from work. But the push by preschool proponents is that all children benefit from attending preschool. It is purported that children who attend preschool do better academically and are better adjusted socially as adults. So, while preschool proponents claim that it is “grossly unfair” that preschool is available only to the rich and, consequently, that we should have state funded programs available for the needy, we are also shown that there are logical reasons why we should embrace preschool for children of all socio-economic levels. While proponents of universal preschool stress that their concept is strictly voluntary, their media rhetoric says otherwise. After all, if attending preschool is beneficial for all children, why limit it to the needy? Why not make it available for all California toddlers? Indeed, the California legislation faced a bill in 2004 which, while heralded as providing voluntary universal preschool, also proposed that kindergarten be mandatory. The initial text of the bill AB 56 stated,
(1) Existing law, commonly referred to as the Compulsory Education Law, subjects pupils between the ages of 6 and 18 to compulsory full-time education. This bill would, instead, subject pupils between the ages of 5 and 18 to compulsory full-time education, and would make conforming changes, including, but not limited to, changes relating to kindergarten services and the full day of instruction. By expanding the Compulsory Education Law, and by changing related crimes, this bill would impose a state-mandated local program. (emphasis added)It was opposed by the Home School Legal Defense Association and eventually amended to exclude the mandatory kindergarten provision. A four year-old could just about see where such legislation would lead – once mandatory kindergarten is firmly entrenched, along with universal preschool, how could anyone object to the obvious societal benefits of having mandatory universal preschool? One doesn’t have to dig very far to find that First5 California promotes healthy care for children starting at birth. How long before the healthy care availability for infants becomes mandatory government run infant care? Opening a Christmas card in the near future might reveal something along the lines of: Johnny is in infant care… and he loves it! Additional reference: Mandatory Preschool in California?