2014 May 15 Thursday
Liberal Faith In Universal Prekindergarten

In an article about higher median income in Canada (in which no mention of comparative immigration policy appears) NY Times high priest, er, I mean political columnist Nicholas Kristof opines on the incredible importance of pre-kindergarten education.

The top six hedge fund managers and traders averaged more than $2 billion each in earnings last year, partly because of the egregious “carried interest” tax break. President Obama has been unable to get financing for universal prekindergarten; this year’s proposed federal budget for pre-K for all, so important to our nation’s future, would be a bit more than a single month’s earnings for those six tycoons.

It does not matter that early childhood education provides no lasting benefit. A rational realist might think early childhood eduction has no solid base of evidence demonstrating its benefit.. But someone who needs a comforting secular faith in humanity is going to embrace one. A strong emotional need to be comforted by the prospect of utopia (if only the world would listen to the vanguard of the dictatorship of one's secular faith) is plenty enough to block out discomforting evidence.

Spending a lot more money on education really does not help.

So why the liberal faith in humanity? My working hypotheses: many people, liberals, especially, want to avoid the emotional discomfort that would result from accepting a realistic view of humanity. A realistic view based on the evidence would so cut off options and fantasies.

Update: Another hypothesis to explain liberal faith in prekindergarten as the key: a liberal mental handicap.

Think about just how desperate it is to think that only by intervening in the intellectual development of 3 year olds can the Great American Test Gap be closed. I mean, I'd be embarrassed to embrace ridiculous hopes. But shameless people promote this policy at the national level and billions of dollars gets spent on a ridiculous dream that has been tried and failed for decades.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2014 May 15 09:44 PM 

Bill said at May 16, 2014 4:56 AM:

Studies show that pre-K education only has a positive effect on poor, minority children; other than that, it's a waste of money and children's time. I've always thought that "pre-K education" is a code name for "free daycare" and is therefore yet another example of pandering to women, especially single mothers.

Finland does very well in international education tests; the Finns do not even ALLOW children to begin organized school until age 7.

amac78 said at May 16, 2014 6:07 AM:
[People who I claim to despise (theory only, as some may pour money into causes I support)] averaged more than $2 billion each in earnings last year... President Obama has been unable to get financing for [solving global warming, ending inequality, rescuing kidnapped girls but not murdered boys, whatever]: this year’s proposed federal budget for [whatever], so important to our nation’s future, would be a bit more than a single month’s earnings for those six tycoons.
I'll go out on a limb and call BS as far as Kristof's implied assertion that universal pre-K for the U.S. would actually cost $1 billon per year. (If that's not his claim, what's the point of noting "this year's proposed federal budget for pre-K"?) Based only on intuition, and distrust of Mr. Kristof and the fact-checkers at the NYT.

I'll return in a few minutes after looking up a couple of relevant numbers.

By the way, I think it's all to the good that the Kristofs of the world are noticing the slow-motion collapse of the American middle class. Even if their diagnoses are mostly wrong, and their hair-of-the-dog-that-bit-you remedies yet worse.

Dan said at May 16, 2014 6:36 AM:

I was listening to On Point on NPR last night (masochist that I am) and they were opining the inability of Zuckerburg and Booker and Christie to turn around Newark schools in spite of gobs of money.


It was an entire program of smart liberals being befuddled about the blindingly obvious. It was a recorded program so I could not call in and break the news to them. I would have said that this gets to the problem of HBD which afflicts many of Newark's children, as if it was something like ADD, without spelling it out.

My favorite comment was from an 'expert' who said four years is not enough. It would take continuous investment in these kids across several lifetimes #!#.

amac78 said at May 16, 2014 6:39 AM:

Per my comment of 6:07 AM --

Both full-day and half-day pre-K programs are offered. Kristof likely favors full day programs.

Students and staff per pre-K classroom? In St. Paul, up to 20 students, with a licensed teacher and one or more assistants.

A pre-K teacher might make $38,000 per year, and an assistant $19,000 (indeed.com). I'll assume 0.2 FTE administrators per classroom at $50,000 per year, and a fringe benefit rate of 25%. Thus, personnel costs per classroom are $84,000, or $4,200 per full-day student.

The Census Bureau estimates that there were 20.11 million people in the US under 5 years old in 2012, thus about 4.0 million 4 year olds.

Estimated direct instructional and administrative overhead costs for universal pre-K in the U.S., annually: $17 billion for full-day and $8 billion for half-day.

If Kristof is concerned with the incremental costs of achieving universal coverage: 28% of 4-year-olds already attend. Getting to 90% enrollment would cost an added $11 billion (full day) or $5 billion (half day).

These estimates would obviously be higher if one took the costs beyond instruction into account.

jklphd said at May 16, 2014 8:05 AM:

Simply put, liberal parents want taxpayers to be responsible for most of the care of their children from when they are born and until they finish college. They are selfish in the extreme. They want a baby sitter as early as possible. Education doesn't really come in to it.

Dan said at May 16, 2014 10:32 AM:

Republicans, aka grown ups, have an easy answer.

"Sure fine, just pay for it with cuts elsewhere. We don't want to burden these poor children with more debt."


"You have ruined the futures of these children with your debt. Please don't pretend you care about them all of a sudden."

Daniel said at May 16, 2014 11:06 AM:

>>>The top six hedge fund managers and traders averaged more than $2 billion each in earnings last year, partly because of the egregious “carried interest” tax break.

He has a good point with the carried interest, why doesn't he stick with that? Maybe because the Democrats are as invested in keeping wall street bankers happy and rich as the Republicans are.

For those who are uninformed, the "carried interest" tax break allows Wallsteeters to classify income (often enough in the millions and billion) as long term capital gains, thus paying 15% on the income instead of the usual rate for that amount.

map said at May 16, 2014 4:19 PM:


"For those who are uninformed, the "carried interest" tax break allows Wallsteeters to classify income (often enough in the millions and billion) as long term capital gains, thus paying 15% on the income instead of the usual rate for that amount."

This is a feature of cash-settled markets, like options on indexes. Cash-settled indexes treat half the profits as income and the other half as long-term capital gains.

James Bowery said at May 16, 2014 11:33 PM:

Prenatal hormone treatments if not gene therapy is in order. After all, the way eusocial species turn potential individuals into angelic robots is parasitic castration of the offspring by the mother -- and the mother of us all, the nanny state, deserves no less than our total devotion, does she not?

Well, perhaps nothing less than our total devotion plus Upgraydd.

B'mo said at May 17, 2014 9:35 AM:

The problem is blacks and hispanics. The End.

Daniel said at May 17, 2014 1:52 PM:

>>This is a feature of cash-settled markets, like options on indexes. Cash-settled indexes treat half the profits as income and the other half as long-term capital gains.

No, it's not a feature of cash-settled markets. Wallstreeters (hedge funds and private equity) own capital invested in the funds they manage is a tiny fraction of the gross amount invested, yet the fees they earn (the fabled 2 and 20 of the gross amount they manage) are considered by the IRS to be capital gains on that tiny fraction of capital. If the fees were prorated to the Wallsteeters own capital invested only a tiny fraction would be considered capital gains, the remainder, logically, assessed as earned income. This is not the case. Democrats as well as Republicans have pressed on the IRS to interpret all the fees earned by Walstreeters as capital gains, the tax rate of which, is much lower than that of earned income. No other profession, no other worker in America receives such preferential treatment as regards their income. Wallstreeters own congress. They own the Democrats, they own the Republicans. They own the rest of us.

John Cunningham said at May 17, 2014 4:50 PM:

Robert Weissberg's book, Bad Students, Not Bad Schools, explains this mystery completely. a school population high in Blacks, Central American peasants, and miscellaneous Third World immigrants lacks the intelligence to succeed at a high academic level. read John Derbyshire and Steve Sailer for massive details. of course these facts will never be acknowledged by our Party masters.

John Cunningham said at May 17, 2014 4:54 PM:

Bill, commenting on 5-16, claimed that intensive pre-school has positive effects only on minority kids. thia is true only briefly; studies done repeatedly over the past 40 years have shown that minority kids have no effect by grades 3-5. and Bill, does a look at a primary school class in Helainki, compared to say Chicago, LA, or Camden NJ, suggest any possible DIFFERENT CHARACTERISTICS of Finnish kids vs. American residents? I wonder what the difference might be....

CamelCaseRob said at May 17, 2014 5:30 PM:

The Right has gotten nothing by carrying water for the wealthy (the top .01%) and should out pander the Left on this by calling for a wealth tax. We need to go full-blown populist.

But to get to the main subject of your post, those on the Left will never accept HBD until everything possible has been done to remove any differences in upbringing between poor and not-poor children. So, I think they'd probably agree to a program to keep poor children away from their dysfunctional families for all but 2 or 3 hours of leisure time a day (including "weekends") and starting as early in life as possible (think weeks after birth). They would certainly want all food, clothing, shelter, and leisure to be equal to someone of the middle-class. And, obviously, schools should be of at least the same quality (not just officially, but also in terms of what the parents provide in resources and time (except you don't WANT those parents involved in anyway, so substitute parents would need to be developed and involved)). Finally, they would need to be isolated from their cohorts so as not to absorb their bad behavior. I prefer to think in post-scarcity terms and visualize what we can do then. No one I know has ever discussed android teachers. I could see one-on-one teaching where each child is kept away from other children and in a room with only an android. This would entail completely individualized pacing of learning and the android would also be able to discipline and control any child that was unruly, or even inattentive. Only when all this is done will the Left admit to the truth of HBD, and personally, I think it is something we should work toward -- starting with soaking the uber-rich (good Democrats, mostly).

Mike said at May 17, 2014 11:54 PM:

As have already point out, preschool education is basically child minding aimed at getting more women in the workforce - hence the reason why it's supported by big business. And that's one of the big themes of social and economic history over the last 40 years - big business has supported progressive causes as this strategy helps increases the labour supply and breaks down barriers to open borders, free markets and the expansion of the service economy. The mainstream right refuses to believe this because it assumes big business wouldn't support policies that would lead to more red tape and higher taxes. However, big business only pays for part of the cost of progressive programmes, yet it captures most of the benefits. In Europe and Australia much of the cost of progressive programmes is paid for through indirect taxes like GST, which fall on consumers instead of corporations.

Check it out said at May 19, 2014 4:43 PM:

Yes, that's the exact mood of the people living in falling empires. No more faith in humanity.

93% of a person's educational influence is from home. Teachers don't have that much idiological influence except in a very few instances and only from very extraordinary teachers being really extraordinary human beings. Catholic schools for example now hold a great percentage of atheist and agnostic kids.

Bill said at May 21, 2014 6:04 AM:

I'm not a professional educator, but if you peel your liberal blinders off (those who have them), the supposed benefits of pre-K education look like this: children are 'better prepared' for kindergarten and school (i.e., someone has spent some effort in socializing the child and given some early instruction on letters and reading), better long-term outcomes for the education process (someone has convinced children that staying in school and completing at least high school is valuable), better health generally over the long-term due to health screenings and lunch programs (someone has paid attention to the children, making sure that they have gotten reasonable nutrition, vaccinations, essential dental and doctor visits), and so forth.

It seems like a lot of the supposed value of pre-K adds up to someone performing necessary civilizing functions relating to children. Might this 'someone' be the parents performing a process called 'raising your children?' Just a question.

Dr. Doom said at June 16, 2014 5:02 PM:

Oh, come now. You don't believe for a minute that Democrats support these Pre-k Programs because they work do you? They know it doesn't work, and they don't care - its not their money! This is just a jobs program for their dumb as a post voters who major in "Education" - The Ghetto of the University, and of course another handout to their dark horde of vote-slaves in the form of free meals and babysitting services, because their mamas be too busy watching their stories on their big screen TVs to watch them chillrens!
Wasting other peoples' money is what Democrats do, its probably ALL they do really. They don't work, or think, or follow current events. If they didn't waste other peoples' money, Democrats probably wouldn't do anything!

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