“Pre-K Isn’t About Family Needs, It’s About Social Planning”
BY: Joy Pullman
There are several reasons preschool-pushers deliberately harness middle-class parents’ largely needless anxiety about their tiny offspring. First, they need middle-class people on board, because they need our votes to enact what is really another welfare program. The available preschool research at best suggests it may help the small (but unfortunately growing, thanks to society’s choice to ignore family breakdown) proportion of kids who are born into destructive homes. No research suggests preschool is better for small children than a caring, stable family.
This is, however, not as persuasive an argument to the tax-paying public as the argument research does not support, which is the same deception New York City officials are trying to feed everyone: Pretty much every kid should be in preschool, and the more time he spends out of his home, the better. This simply isn’t true. If anything, a child benefits most from a strong attachment to his family, and children naturally need and seek a lasting bond with one (or two) primary caregiver(s). In the early years, that’s usually mom. Preschool teachers and nannies come and go, but mom is always there. And young ones need and deserve her presence.
Second, preschool-pushers benefit from moms’ and dads’ anxiety about and ignorance of their importance to their children and, through grounding and nurturing those children, to society at large. When men and women measure their worth by their paychecks and the material goods those paychecks can buy, they will jettison other commitments. They’ll also do so when society tells people marrying once a baby is on the way is not necessary. Usually, the effects don’t appear until later, when children begin to act out and drop out in middle and high school. And the rest of us do indeed pay, in both a fraying culture and to sponsor anti-bullying, mental-health, welfare, job training, elder-care, and anti-crime programs.
Third, preschool-pushers play on our belief that someone else can and should raise children better than those whose love brought those children into existence, our belief that “society” or “experts” or anything somewhere, anywhere else besides in our homes and communities are the appropriate entities for handling individual concerns. It’s very attractive, but also lazy and ignorant, to presume that someone else will handle my affairs for me better than I can do so myself. It’s a pervasive and genteel cover for avoiding personal responsibility.
Especially when it comes to personal matters such as child-raising, however, the people who know best are those who are most intimately involved. This is not just a demonstrably proven economic concept sometimes called the information problem; it’s also a social concept called individual liberty, which has a corollary called self-government. You can’t get more intimate with a child than having spawned and nourished it within your very own body. A child’s father and mother can’t get more intimate than doing the thing that makes babies come alive. Our natural responsibility for children doesn’t end when they exit the birth canal, just as their natural responsibility for us doesn’t enter when they leave our homes for the wide world. And the best societal arrangements respect these realities rather than attempting to chop them to pieces.