State run preschools? Oh my! Is the sky really falling on our preschool-aged children?
Before we consider this alarming proposal, shouldn't some questions be: Why involve ourselves further in the monopolistic system while ignoring free-market education? If we have a difficult time trying to fix the nearly 60 percent Alaska state-run K-12 programs that failed to make adequate yearly progress under the No Child Left Behind Act (Juneau Empire, Aug. 21, 2003, "282 Alaska schools fall short of federal standards"), why are our Governor and legislators touting the possibility of making laws to "school" more innocent youngsters? Won't preschools over-burden existing staff and facilities? Socialization by compulsion and younger-age "child abductions" via government legislation haven't worked well in the past. Why trust government to do more of the same with younger, more-impressionable minds and hearts?
In Alaska, from all recent accounts, the proposal on the table is to grab children out of their homes in villages and towns throughout our state, younger and earlier, and place them in a failing system under the over-worn mantra "It's for their own good." Preposterous! The New York Times ran an op-ed piece by Philip K. Howard titled "You Can't Buy Your Way Out of a Bureaucracy (Dec. 3, 2004), which states: "Fixing America's schools sometimes seems like one of the hardest tasks in the history of civilization. The core requirement, a good teacher in an orderly classroom, somehow seems beyond our grasp ... Law is brilliantly ill-suited as a management system. Law is rigid and leaves no room to adjust to the circumstances. Once the idea of rule-based management takes root, the bureaucracy grows like kudzu."
Compulsion does not a good society build. And "schooling" is not the same topic of discussion as are education, knowledge and learning. Schooling is for fish. Free-market education is key, not more from the same monopoly. Personally, advocating for more independent courses, neighborhood education co-ops, private, church and home-centered learning environments is the way to go. These are all noteworthy education alternatives with a definitive pattern of historical and present-day success.
Concerning this latest home invasion, let's begin our homework by doing an online search for the most recent Alaska statewide benchmarks testing results or ask for them from your local public school administrators. Get the facts about the results of hundreds of Alaska secondary students who failed the state exit exam, or read why even "Full-day kindergarten alarms some parents" (Juneau Empire, June 16, 2003). Krista Kafer's study on Frequently Asked Questions about Education in America gives non-biased research and statistics (April 4, 2004), or check out the National Education Association's Web site and their agenda. Then, ask yourself this question: Using common sense and reason, is more of the same con job for your younger children what you really want?
Some valuable hindsight (or foresight, whichever the case may be): President Ronald Reagan's 1983 blue ribbon commission report, in its sixth sentence, contends, "If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war."
Parents, rise up. Don't let "government nannies" raise your children for you. Protect and teach your own children character, sharing and manners alongside cultural studies and languages, reading, writing and math or hire knowledgeable, trusted tutors and barter and trade goods and services to do so. Please don't abandon your children to more of the same poor results under the advice or veiled or open threats of so-called "experts."
I realize a few assorted educrats, enemies, lunatics, scoffers, mockers and skeptics may disagree with my position on this issue, but this idea of adding state-run preschools to Alaska law is a bad one. If you agree, phone, e-mail or fax Governor Murkowski, state school board members, and your elected senators and representatives. In my opinion, government funded public schools, at any level, are not getting what your children deserve. They deserve better.
Hoonah resident Rory Schneeberger is a retired educator and counselor. She is formerly a legislative employee and volunteer consultant with the Alaska, Wyoming and Colorado state legislatures.