Among some conservative intellectuals and pundits, nothing says “government overreach” like public education spending.
This morning in the pages of National Review Online, Michelle Malkin spits some bile at President Obama’s plans to invest in universal early-childhood education.
As have other conservatives such as Lindsey Burke and Rachel Sheffield of the Heritage Foundation, Malkin denounces federally sponsored pre-kindergarten schooling in the harshest terms.
Malkin argues that the vaunted promises of universal pre-k don’t stand up to intelligent scrutiny. As have other fed-skeptics, Malkin seems to mix up a few federal reports. She refers second-hand to a journalist’s citation of a 2010 study of pre-k’s long-term effectiveness. If she really wanted to bash federally sponsored universal pre-k, though, she would have been wiser to cite the Department of Health and Human Services 2012 follow-up to that study. The 2010 study suggested that Head Start programs had a significant positive impact on children. The 2012 follow-up, in contrast, implied that those positive effects dissipated by third grade (roughly age 7/8). The numbers seem pretty clear: universal pre-k is not the simple social and educational panacea that some progressives had hoped for.
But more than just these policy arguments, Malkin thinks federally sponsored universal pre-k has a bigger moral problem. As she puts it,
Let’s set all of this science aside for the moment. There’s a bigger elephant in the room. As I’ve pointed out for years, these cradle-to-grave government-education/day-care services encourage drive-through, drop-off parenting. Subsidizing this phenomenon cheats children, undermines family responsibilities, and breeds resentment among childless workers who are forced to pay for costly social services.
Perhaps this moral dilemma is the reason why Malkin is not overly concerned with the social-science exactitude of her sources. Her argument goes like this: federally sponsored pre-k doesn’t work. And even if it did, it would still lead our society in morally monstrous directions.