2008 September 27 Saturday
Obama Embraces Discredited Early Childhood Education

In his first debate with John McCain liberal leftist Barack Obama demonstrated his faith in early childhood education.

The problem with a spending freeze is you're using a hatchet where you need a scalpel. There are some programs that are very important that are under funded. I went to increase early childhood education and the notion that we should freeze that when there may be, for example, this Medicare subsidy doesn't make sense.

But a recent study found little benefit from early childhood education by 8th grade. Also, the benefits of full day versus half day kindergarten fade after a few grades. A 1995 Rand Corporation study found black kids in America gain no lasting benefits from Head Start pre-kindergarten schooling.

Thus, for example, by age 10 African-American children have lost any benefits they gained from Head Start, while 10-year-old white children retain a gain of 5 percentile points. There is no evidence of a similar interaction effect among children who attend preschool.

Our results for African-Americans are thus consistent with those of earlier studies (which tended to be dominated by African-American subjects). When we focus on only young African-American Children, we find clear benefits of Head Start. However, in a sample of African-American children of all ages there is no effect of Head Start. This is because the benefits die out very quickly. In contrast white children experience the same initial gains from Head Start but they retain these benefits for a much longer period.

But for Obama and many other liberal democrats education is the universal cure-all for what ails societies. Obama showed the same delusion in his speech at 2008 Democratic National Convention Aug 27, 2008: Does he really believe this feel-good nonsense?

Michelle and I are here only because we were given a chance at an education. I will not settle for an America where some kids don't have that chance. I'll invest in early childhood education. I'll recruit an army of new teachers, pay them higher salaries and give them more support. In exchange, I'll ask for higher standards and more accountability. We'll keep our promise to every young American--if you commit to serving your community and your country, we will make sure you can afford a college education

Obama is supposed to be smarter than McCain. But what good is intelligence when ideological beliefs require that intelligence not be applied to developing an accurate understanding of reality?

Though in his debate with McCain right after he proposed spending more on early childhood education at least Obama argued to quit wasting money in Iraq.

Let me tell you another place to look for some savings. We are currently spending $10 billion a month in Iraq when they have a $79 billion surplus. It seems to me that if we're going to be strong at home as well as strong abroad, that we have to look at bringing that war to a close.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2008 September 27 12:06 PM  Education

Observer said at September 27, 2008 1:31 PM:

The Obama campaign also misleadingly cites Nobel Laureate Jim Heckman to support the universal preschool scheme. Obama claims an ROI of 600-900%, while Heckman found 16%. Heckman found benefits only for intensive programs working with extremely disadvantaged youth, while Obama's plan is for everyone, including functioning families. Many studies have found nil or negative effects from preschool relative to staying at home.


The favorable interpretation would be that this is pure pandering and that Obama believes in this as much as he believes in ethanol:


Still, even if we just treat the claims of benefit for children as campaign lies, universal preschool is still government daycare that lowers the marginal cost of childrearing for working mothers, and may increase fertility rates among educated and professional women.

Observer said at September 27, 2008 1:45 PM:

My mistake on the 600-900% rate of return. The claim is an overall cost:benefit ratio of 1:7 to 1:10, from the Chicago Longitudinal Study, so the purported ROI is much lower.

beowulf said at September 27, 2008 5:36 PM:

It'd be interesting to see cost:benefit ratios for existing and proposed government programs. It'd be easier to support programs that more than pay for themselves (childhood vaccine programs I imagine) and easier to oppose programs that didn't (Iraq invasion without question) if the numbers were available.
Of course, for people who make decisions in their "gut", it wouldn't matter and surely folks endorsing the poor cost:benefit programs would argue the math is all wrong. I wonder if the OMB (or some think tank) publishes that data?

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