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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Should Public Funding of Early Childhood Education Be A High Priority?

Yes, according to Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro. But what exactly is "early childhood education"?

The last question from the audience at the Holden Public Policy Forum at Webster University to DESE Commissioner Chris Nicastro was basically this: if you the commissioner had stable, and even increasing money flow (which is certainly not the case at the present time), what would she do with it?

Without hesitation, she answered: "early childhood education."

Now, why would that bother me over and above many other issues including Race to the Top funding?

Don't I think children should be educated, and certainly as early as possible?

I'm bothered because parents are responsible for "educating" their children by reading with them and doing other basic learning activities. It's called "parenting."

To Commissionor Nicastro credit, she seems to understand the notion that "school" should not be narrowly defined as only time in the "classroom," but rather, "school" is much more broader in scope and includes all educational activities. Homeschool parents understand this concept well.

To me, it seems, that will all the talk about the need for "educational reform," what we need is a revolution in returning to the basics (no I'm not very creative in my proposed solutions), and not fads and continually defining and redefining "standards."

Learning how to read, write, and add as well as many other tasks are not group activities. Why are we trying to make them group activities? Maybe because our society has tried to make them group activities, some children fall behind?

More over, the pre-kindergarten push is based on false assumptions that beg the question: is there research showing that a structured (or possibility out-of-control) classroom is better "early child education" than parents can provide their children at home or no classroom instruction at all?

Ok, now, I'm sure some of you are thinking, "Ruth, it's great that well-to-do parents might have the intuition and resources to "educate" their children at home before Kindergarten, but what about the 'poor'?"

Let's look at how well Head Start, a program focused on early childhood education for lower-income children, has preformed. Head Start serves approximately 900,000 low-income children at a cost of $9 billion per year. An experimental evaluation by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that
"Head Start has had little to no effect on cognitive, socio-emotional, health, and parenting outcomes of participating children. For the four-year-old cohort, access to Head Start had a beneficial effect on only two outcomes (1.8 percent) out of 112 measures. For the three-year-old cohort, access to Head Start had one harmful impact (0.9 percent) and five (4.5 percent) beneficial impacts out of 112 measures," according to by David B. Muhlhausen, Ph.D. and Dan Lips.
To sound like a progressive, in part, the solution is more discussion on what is "early childhood education." And to sound like a conservative, I don't think the main problem is not enough publicly funded structured (or not so structured) classroom snacks, naps, and diversity training.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

From the Inside Out

One of the most devastating but liberating discoveries, according John Piper, is that we can't make ourselves love God.

Love, by definition, is something that can't be forced. We have to want to love.

What do we do if we don't love God from the inside out, wholly and totally, with our all of our hearts and minds?

A. W. Tozer, in his book The Pursuit of God, writes that "if we cooperate with Him in loving obedience, God will manifest Himself to us, and that manifestation will be the difference between a nominal Christian life and a life radiant with the light of His face."

I wonder: Where does the "loving obedience" come from?

Tozer asks: "Why do some persons 'find' God in a way that others do not?"

Tozer defines "finding God" as "becoming more closely united in mind and heart" with God. And those who exercise and not neglect the longing within to know God in the deepest ways possible this side of Heaven will develop "spiritual receptivity."

This "spiritual receptivity" is a gift from God and requires a "determined heart" and "courage to wrench ourselves loose from the grip of our times."

"Let any man turn to God in earnest, let him begin to exercise himself unto godliness, let him seek to develop his powers of spiritual receptivity by trust and obedience and humility, and the results will exceed anything he may have hoped in his leaner and weaker days," writes Tozer.

I pray Tozer's words:

O God and Father, I repent of my sinful preoccupation with visible things. The world has been too much with me. Thou hast been here and I knew it not. I have been blind to Thy presence. Open my eyes that I may behold Thee in and around me. For Christ's sake, Amen.

Hillsong's From the Inside Out:

Re-posted from l0-6-09