February 15, 2013: David Brooks, conservative columnist for the New York Times, wrote a column yesterday about President Obama's call for universal preschool. Brooks's column, "When Families Fail," has this closing argument:
...This is rude to say, but here’s what this is about: Millions of parents don’t have the means, the skill or, in some cases, the interest in building their children’s future. Early childhood education is about building structures so both parents and children learn practical life skills. It’s about getting kids from disorganized homes into rooms with kids from organized homes so good habits will rub off. It’s about instilling achievement values where they are absent.
President Obama has taken on a big challenge in a realistic and ambitious way. If Republicans really believe in opportunity and local control, they will get on board....
The irony that escapes the usually alert Mr. Brooks is that these "millions of parents ... who don't have the skills" are the children (and grandchildren) of those who were deprived of preschool by Nixon's 1972 veto (read story below) -- the veto that conservative Republicans lauded for saving the family and keeping the country from "going Communist."
Mr. Brooks, writes that "...starting a few decades ago, we learned that preschool intervention programs could help..." Quelle surprise. That would be eleven decades ago, if one begins with the work of Maria Montessori.
February 14, 2013: In the wake of Tuesday's State of the Union message, in which President Obama called for universal preschool, Gail Collins, in her column for the New York Times, reminded us of a moment, 42 years ago, when we came very close:
In 1971, when he was a senator, [Walter] Mondale [D-Minnesota] led the Congressional drive to make quality preschool education available to every family in the United States that wanted it. Everybody. The federal government would set standards and provide backup services like meals and medical and dental checkups. Tuition would depend on the family’s ability to pay.
And it passed! Then Richard Nixon vetoed it, claiming Congress was proposing “communal approaches to child rearing.” Now, 42 years later, working parents of every economic level scramble madly to find quality programs for their preschoolers, while the waiting lines for poor families looking for subsidized programs stretch on into infinity....
Mondale’s Comprehensive Child Development Act was a bipartisan bill, which passed 63 to 17 in the Senate. It was an entitlement, and, if it had become law, it would have been one entitlement for little children in a world where most of the money goes to the elderly.
“We came up with a lot of proposals, but the one we were most excited about was early childhood education. Everything we learned firmed up the view this really works,” said Mondale [to Collins this week]. The destruction of his bill was one of the earliest victories of the new right. “The federal government should not be in the business of raising America’s children. It was a political and ideological ideal of great importance,” Pat Buchanan once told me. He was working at the White House when the bill reached Nixon’s desk, and he helped write the veto message. He spoke about this achievement with great pride....
Nixon also said the Comprehensive Child Development Act would "weaken families." Right, and how's that working out for you? If Collins's reminder doesn't break your heart, you don't have one.