Fri, 10 Apr 2009 20:23:45 +0000 – By John R. Lott, Jr.Senior Researcher, University of Maryland/Author,"Freedomnomics"
Teacher unions are ecstatic. It is only April and President Obama has already delivered most of their many wishes.
The "stimulus"package gave teachers large salary increases. And over the pleading of D.C.'s mayor and residents, Obama will phase out the voucher systemfor poor D.C. residents. Now public school teachers and administrators in the District of Columbia do not need to worry about trying to improve, as the competition was wiped out by the stroke of a pen.
And it is a protectionism that has a real cost. A new U.S. Department of Education study released last Fridayconfirms what the parents and children in the program knew: children who had received vouchers since the spring of 2004 had learned the equivalent of 1.5 to 2 years more learning than those students who had stayed in public schools.
Furthermore, Obama's budget blueprints passed by the House and Senaterecently will increase the demand for unionized teachers by expanding the trend for more public schooling that was already in the "stimulus" package -- with adding on pre-kindergarten classes as well as lengthening both the school dayand the school year.
Despite all the rhetoric about improving American education, Obama has ignored one fact: American children do relatively wellcompared to children in other countries when the are young. The longer that they are in the American public schooling system, the worst they do. In tests for 4th grade, Americans ranked near the top of both science and math, but American students in 8th grade had fallen to the bottom third of the nations.
Possibly the benefits to the unions are enough to motivate Obama. Possibly Obama really thinks that monopoly government schooling is much better than private competition for the general population, even if it doesn't apply to his own family. But there are other longer term, more subtle consequence to expanding government schooling to younger and younger ages.
Research showsthat the countries with the earliest school starting age are the most totalitarian and socialist countries. Time after time, totalitarian governments found that they can best instill the views and values that the governments wanted by taking the children away from the parents' influence as soon as possible. Longer school days is also a means to increase the influence of the government and decrease that of the family.
There are lots of similar storiesfrom other totalitarian countries, but even in Europe, similar if less extreme policies were followed. Take the creation of Sweden's extensive nursery school system. Declaring that "school is the spearhead of Socialism," Ingvar Carlsson, Sweden's education minister from 1969 to 1973 (and later prime minister), insisted that removing children from the home through "pre-school training is essential 'to eliminate the social heritage'" of undesirable, reactionary parental views. Sweden's income tax system was even set up to "get both parents out of the home, so that children are forced out as well."
The former Soviet Union, of course, went much further. During the 1920s and again in the 1950s went so far as raising millions of children in communal children's houses, dining halls, and other institutions that completely separated the children from their families.
Decades later during the Soviet war in Afghanistan, the Soviets forcibly transferred tens of thousands of three- and four-year-old Afghanis to the USSR. By educating the children away from their families, the Soviets hoped to instill Communist ideals and then return their subjects to Afghanistan years later as part of a loyal government administration.
Who influences the minds of the young is a continuing battle. In comparison to the average parent, unionized American teachers are obviously more liberal, more inclined to support government regulation and spending. While married women with children tend to be much more conservative than the average voter, 93 percent of the National Education Association donations from 1990 to 2008 went to Democrats.
Whether done consciously or not, American children spending more time away from their parents will at the very least further weaken families, causing greater separation in later years between parents and their children.