keep the pre-k, gimme that childcare
Thank you for highlighting the role of schools in keeping kids safe, fed, and warm. I grew up in Minnesota, and my mom taught special education in a low-income, majority-minority high school for most of her career. The school provided breakfast as well as lunch and after school snacks to any child who wanted them. It also provided something I had never thought about before: heat during Minnesota’s brutal, long winter.
My mom told me something once that broke my heart: you know how, as kids, we all couldn’t wait for weekends, holidays, and summer vacation? How we would get so excited and happy? Well, my mom’s students dreaded school breaks. They would linger after school on Friday afternoons and on the last day before break until they had to be kicked out. My mom said she could see them getting progressively sadder as the breaks approached. Think about how different their world is from that of most policymakers.
These kids were not heading to college; it was counted a success if they were able to pass the state reading test and graduate. The school did not give them the kind of intense academic education most policymakers say we should strive for. The school gave them something much more important: a place to let down their guards and be cared for.
My wife and I run a childcare- well, she runs it, and I help as much as I can between shifts.
All children old enough to walk about are wee robots designed to self-destruct as creatively as possible. Your job is to toss monkey wrenches into their gears and sand in their gas tanks all day so they can get home alive. Astounding, really, how ambitious the little dudes are.
It would be grand to design system where you don’t have to have a second parent work full time to afford childcare so they can afford to work full time, but in its absence “keep the toddlers from suiciding” really should be the guiding principle rather than setting them up for algebra classes or whatever.
My wife is a Kindergarten teacher and her other main task is to properly socialize the 10-30% of kids who's parents didn't do it. If kids don't learn how to play with others by 4 or 5 then they have a very tough life ahead of them.
And also that there is nothing wrong with a bunch of 3 year olds spending the afternoon watching Aquanaut’s. First of all, because trying to use that time to teach reading or math has no long term benefits and may indeed be harmful. Second, not every moment in life needs to be productive.
We chose a play based childcare center -- it was licensed, but the caregivers were not teaching, they were setting up different play activities for the kids to select. But when my son arrived at kindergarten not yet reading it took a few weeks before he made the connection between the words he understood orally and those on the page and when his teacher explained that the silent e makes the other vowel in the word "say its name" he was off and reading Harry Potter to himself by the end of the year. I guess I am saying that when kids are ready to learn to read they will if they have decent support.
I would describe myself as having an economically stable life situation, but subsidized childcare would literally be life changing.
"And it devalues the true purpose of childcare, which is also an underrated aspect of public schools: keeping children alive when their parents can’t watch them."
Single biggest job of principals during the pandemic: getting the free lunches distributed.
I agree with all this. In fact, I'd be in favor of removing the college degree requirement from k-3 in favor of a knowledge test. All we're doing is constantly lowering the college degree standard to push out more people for jobs that don't need college knowledge.
There is actually some evidence that mandatory or induced pre-K can be a little harmful for kids in terms of social adjustment (e.g. https://www.nber.org/papers/w11832 - that is just one study, there have been others). The problem is that putting very young children in a collective setting away from their parents can lead to stress and aggression. I didn't quite get this until I observed it with my own children. In my experience "official" pre-K can actually be worse than less formal child care because there are procedures and discipline that work for older kids but are inappropriate for say 3 year olds -- 3 year olds and 5 or 6 year olds are very different.
Very little to do with the piece, but literally nothing I read about children makes me want to have any.
Licensure of grandparents or extended family who watch so many children not required.
Really wish this one was longer ....
The license and credential requirements are great for pumping federal money into state and local college systems. My city offered a "last dollar" scholarship for child development programs, but these workers are so poor that they all qualify for federal financial aid unless they are undocumented
The problem is that it's hard to earn a living wage while you're also going to college just to keep your childcare job -- so it was still a financial burden for these workers as the requirements kept increasing. (And you can make more money working at the gas station, so I wonder how they're even finding new workers these days.)
Like Freddie said, we just need higher wages for all childcare workers, and it has to come from the government. Parents don't make enough to pay someone else's entire salary (or even 1/5 plus overhead at a center) -- it's a burden for parents and not enough for workers.
The licensure & expansion for pre-K especially aggravates me because there are so many more essential uses for that money in public ed. Teacher salaries, building infrastructure, internet to rural areas, goddamned bus driver shortages--these are all huge issues that we need to fix. But politicians always prefer putting their name on new initiatives over quietly fixing existing issues.
I have a concern, but it's difficult for me to articulate it just right. Also, I'd like to say that this is a tentative concern, based in part on some assumptions or premises that Freddie might not share:
Schools, for all the good they do, can be centers of compulsion to the detriment of their wards. I also believe that limiting schools' main mission to education (even though we all know schools take on some social service and childcare functions) curbs or places a check against that compulsory tendency. I fear that a childcare system with a broader mandate--such as "childcare" instead of "education"--may lack such checks or curbs and be even more detrimental to their wards.
Some kind of random thoughts and steps to how I get to that conclusion, which I'll say is a tentative conclusion:
1. I pretty much agree with Freddie's overall argument in his book, with some quibbles about his short-term suggestions for fixing things and with major reservations about his optimism that his preferred version of socialism would do much to solve the problem.
2. I also pretty much agree that if we can find a way to do it, expanding access to affordable childcare, or making it as universal as possible, is a qualified good. (I say "qualified" good because few, if any, good things come without drawbacks, costs, or unwanted or unintended consequences.)
3. And again, I agree that education, while a good thing, feeds into the "cult of smart" that can be very harmful.
4. And yet, I fear that "keeping children alive and healthy" as a goal for a child care system is a bit too vague while "education" as a goal is a bit more directed and easier (though not easy) to follow through on.
5. No. 4 is important, because I fear that without a more directed goal like "education," child care facilities may devolve into something like quasi-prisons, or more like quasi-prisons than some school-wary people claim schools already are.
I know my thoughts are a bit of a jumble about this. I'm also making some assumptions, or at least neglecting to note many, many complicating factors here. (For example, I'm assuming a focus on childcare will lead to large, school-sized daycare centers, and that's not necessarily what would happen.)
A final note: I'm not personally school-wary in the way some people are. I've personally benefited quite well from the public education system in which I grew up. I've never personally thought of schools as a "prison." But I understand that a lot of people haven't benefited or don't benefit.
It’s good to know some child development stuff, no? But otherwise kids just need to scribble, paint, play and socialize. Agree, certified teachers for 0-4 should not be necessary.
This is a tough one; of course I agree: The idea that education should start early is silly, especially if be education we mean standard 3Rs and whatnot. And it's much more necessary to provide a safe, warm, supportive space for kids.
But then, my mind immediately goes to: what does it say that so many kids' home life is so awful? This is a much bigger question, obviously, and I think the standard responses too easily fall short (nuclear family skepticism is important IMO), but it feel uncomfortably like the current sociopolitical system eating its own tail - creating the mass instability and alienation that makes childrens' lives (in particular) so hard, and then coming up with a program to ameliorate that awful situation...