We have been talking about the P-20 Data System and saying that the P stood for pre-K. The Deputy Superintendent of Oregon gave a presentation to the PTA about the Oregon Education Investment Board’s new place inside the department of education.  He explained their thoughts on data collection as an “investment” in students. What should jump out at you is that P clearly does not stand for Pre-K, it stands for “Prenatal.”

“The shift in focus of the department [OEIB] is that this department  should not be about child care so people could work. It should be about when we have that timeframe ensuring that we are moving children along the education continuum. It should be about education, not child care..

We should be thinking about education from the time that a woman is pregnant, prenatal; what their nutrition looks like, what their exercise looks like, what education we can provide  around the earliest levels to help them [the child] be more successful as they move forward so we can ensure that the child arrives at  kindergarten ready to learn.”

I would hope that if the state has a child for 8-10 hours a day starting at age 3 months (assuming a generous maternity leave policy) that that entire time is not spent on instructional education. However, if the state’s goal is to “produce” a child who “moves along the education continuum” using a data system to track progress, what do you think will be happening to that child during the day?

To ensure that the system is accountable for the “investment,” the state will have to assess the child to collect data on their progress. And if the child does not appear to be making sufficient progress along the continuum, the state will need to throw more resources at that child to intensify the learning experience. Gone will be the warm emotional upbringing of infancy, replaced with a system for raising a child primarily to be prepared for the system of public school.

Those who think that worrying about a child’s emotional upbringing is a mother’s weakness, should read the stories of the developmental delays and permanent mental function deficits created in Russian orphanages who merely “managed” the children in their care. “Many of these orphans suffer from weakened immune systems and, thus, all manner of illness. Their mental, emotional and physical development often seriously stunted.”

Of no less concern is the new state focus on the mother. The state now claims a right to know about her nutrition, whether she gets exercise. No doubt health or even genetic screening is not far down the road. They are already requiring licensure for pre-k teachers. How long till they require a license to have the baby in the first place. If the state is going to go out on a limb to guarantee an outcome for the child, which Mr. Saxon refers to several times in the video, and is going to use public money to fund that investment, it is not really a  stretch to say that responsible stewardship of that money requires them to select only women whose prenatal screening shows them to be better at producing a child who could reach that proscribed outcome. That is what an efficient business would do when selecting a supplier. The decision process would be no different for human capital supplied to the process.

Missouri is perhaps not far behind Oregon. In a recent presentation by the Center for Family Policy and Research at our own Truman State University, Dr.  Laura Thornburg gave this presentation. Note slide 28 shows that the Parents As Teachers program will cover “prenatal to age three.” If you are tempted to dismiss that intrusion as designed only for our poorest population, click ahead to slide 31 which says that LA4 Pre-K programs “Serve all children – not just ‘at risk’ students.” In the state’s application for ARRA funds for an Early Childhood Education system, they specifically note in the footnote on page 8 that the P in P-20 stands for prenatal, not Pre-K.

Robert Saxton is a scary man. He presents all of this as if it is a commonly accepted and great idea that the state have this much intrusive power into the intimate bonds between mother and child. He believes it is a simple matter of reallocating resources to replace the parent. Somehow it is a better investment for the state to have the mother working some job generating income tax revenue than it is to invest in her being able to stay home and provide the quality of care to her own child that the state can only dream of providing.


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