161 Should Head Start be ended?


Tom Garrett 3 years, 10 months ago

There is still controversy in Washington about a program that has been doing nothing for the past 45 years, that costs us over $8 billion each year, and is simply not working.

When was the last time that you saw a federal department flatly admit that one of its programs is worthless? The United States Department of Health and Human Services has done exactly that.

In 2011, the Head Start Impact Study team, or HSS team, after sitting on the information for several years finally published a study that shows that Head Start is worthless, that the positive effects of the program were minimal and vanished by the end of first grade.

And yet there are still people in Washington who want to keep it going!

Even Time Magazine, not exactly noted for being on the right side of the aisle in budget arguments says, "It is now 45 years later. We spend more than $7 billion providing Head Start to nearly 1 million children each year. And finally there is indisputable evidence about the program's effectiveness, provided by the Department of Health and Human Services: Head Start simply does not work."

Well? Should we end it, or shouldn't we?


Pat Randall 3 years, 10 months ago

End It. No wonder they decide so many kids have ADHD they are sick of school by the time they get to the first grade.


Tom Garrett 3 years, 10 months ago

Could, be Pat. Could be. I would have hated being away from home at such a young age. Home was the only place I wanted to be, and I think most kids feel that way. Besides, almost everything you need to learn at that age are things that are best taught by just watching what your parents and sublings do. What does a kid learn in a pre-school? Bad habits form other kids who've never been properlytrained.

The main thing, I guess is that the study done by the very people who were running it shows that Head Start is an abject failure, so why should we keep spending money on something that just doesn't work?


Tom Garrett 3 years, 10 months ago

I thought it might help you to get this issue in perspective by actually quoting from the study itself. In fact, I probably should have done that to start with because all too often data which is filtered through someone can be misleading. But as you will see, the study says it all:

This comes directly from the 2011 Head Start Impact report done by the Department of Health and Human Services itself. This is the overall conclusion, word for word.

"Head Start has benefits for both 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds in the cognitive, health, and parenting domains, and for 3-year-olds in the social-emotional domain. However, the benefits of access to Head Start at age four are largely absent by 1st grade for the program population as a whole. For 3-year-olds, there are few sustained benefits, although access to the program may lead to improved parent-child relationships through 1st grade, a potentially important finding for children’s longer term development.”

Now what is that saying? Let me take just two phrases apart for you.

First, what is a benefit in the "...parenting domain?"

Means the parent had less parenting to do. Wow! How about that! You mean that if I take your 3 year old and put him in a school you have less work to do? No kidding?

And what about this mouthful? "...access to the program may lead to improved parent-child relationships through 1st grade."

It means that if your kid doesn't see you in the tender years before the 1st grade he is more likely to want to be with you.

Since the purpose of the program was to give very young children increased academic abilities, the statement that "benefits...at age four are largely absent by 1st grade for the program population as a whole" clearly shows that the program is a failure. It does not do what it is supposed to do.

So what does it do? Here is a genuine drawback for you to think about. First a direct quote:

"After first grade, there were mixed results on measures of shyness, social withdrawal, and problematic student-teacher interactions."

Let me take that out of study-ese and put it in plain English.

Here is how I would have said it: Not all children in the study, but enough to be of genuine concern, come out of Head Start more shy than normal, more socially withdrawn, and more likely to be discipline problems for teachers.

Isn't that pretty much what Pat said? When you take children out of a home environment at age 3, stick them in a classroom, and tell them they have to learn things whether they want to or not it has a lasting effect on their entire lives. They become classroom problems.

Is that what we want? Kids who don't want to be in a classroom?


Pat Randall 3 years, 10 months ago

Some parents want somewhere to dump thier kids and don't want or have the money to pay a baby sitter, so we have pre school and all the rest of it. Those of us who kept care of our kids pay for it. Our kids went everywhere with us, grocery store, movies, shopping, vacations, car races, whatever, from the time they were born untill they were teenagers. Or we had family that baby sat for a little while if we had to do something where kids were not allowed. They all knew the alphabet, numbers, colors, and how to print thier names by the time they were 4 or 5 years old. Guess where they learned it? At home. If people don't want the responsibility of kids then don't have them. My kids are not perfect but they know they are loved and mom and dad were there for them when needed. Either with love or for a spanking.


Tom Garrett 3 years, 10 months ago

From my own experience I know how much those early days meant to me. There was never a time except for one day when I was not at home, and that one day was the day my father was buried. What strikes me is how much that day stands out in my memory. I can remember it almost as clearly as if it happened yesterday.

Consider these separate, individual things I remember about a day when I was out of our home from about 7 in the morning until 1 in the afternoon.

I had no idea, of course, why Mom took me over to her best friend's house, but I remember walking hand in hand with her to Mary Hein's place, just two houses away. The first thing I remember was having cold cereal for breakfast--Kellog's Corn Flakes. It was the first time I ever had cold cereal, and it was quite a treat, different from hot cereal which I really didn't like much.

The milk came in a little blue glass pitcher with an filmy image of Shirley Temple etched into it. I was really excited about that, and before I knew it Mrs. Hein had given it to me and told me to take it home with me. She seemed so excited about the whole thing, and I didn't know why, but years later, when I figured out what day that was I could see that she must have felt so sad for the poor little kid who didn't know that his father was gone.

Then I remember Bobby Hein, Mary Hein's youngest son (of 3) taking me up to their partly finished attic, where he showed me his huge train set. Bobby was not my favorite person. He was 4 years older than I was and a bit of a bully, but he sure was nice to me that day. He showed me how to operate the track switches. It was fun.

I'd never seen an electric train before, and it was a huge set, not in the amount of track or cars, but in the fact that the cars were so much larger than any train set I have ever seen from that day to this. It's hard to judge the size of things from back when you were small because I think we see them as larger than they were, but those cars, I believe, were about 14 inches long, 5 inches wide, and 5 inches high.

We played with them for a long time. Then it was time for lunch. We had New York style clam chowder, made with tomatoes instead of milk, as in New England style clam chowder. And I had little crackers with it.

After lunch we went out in their living room and Bobby showed me how to run the player piano. It had rolls of paper in it with holes punched in them. You used some levers built into the front of the keyboard to operate it. I was fascinated. I even got to run it.

Then Mary Hein walked me home, carrying the Shirley Temple pitcher for me. St the foot of our front porch steps she gave me a big hug, and turned me over to Bill and Frank.

I still have that little pitcher.


Tom Garrett 3 years, 10 months ago

Now think about it. One day, just one day. I was out of the house for just one day, away from Mom and my brothers, and I remember it in great detail. Why?

Because it was a day filled with emotion--in my case happy ones, of course. But what if that day had been an unhappy one? What if it had been a day stuck in a cold gray room with 15 other kids and told to learn things? A day when I had to eat things that were strange to me? A day when I had to pay ay attention to things that didn't interest me? A day when I had to put up with other kids, some of whom were likely to be bullies or crybabies? And suppose they did that to me for three years straight, and then tossed me into kindergarten? What then?

You know what I remember most about kindergarten? I didn't like it! I was always happy when Mom came and got me out of that place. I can't say I hated it, but I was never happy in that place.

Did I learn anything? Yes, I did. I learned that teachers get very angry when you can't say the names of big fat crayons which they insist are the wrong color!

"No, Thomas. That is not yellow. That is green." (Good for you, teach. It looks yellow to me, and you can keep telling me that it's green all day and it's not going to do you any good; it's still going to be yellow.)

I'm color blind.

And as for those Pin the Tail on the Donkey games with the blindfold and all, what was that supposed to teach us? And that A, B, C crap? I had already read "Uncle Tom's Cabin" by that time. I didn't understand a lot about it, but I had read it. It had a lot of alphabet letters it, a lot more than some silly-adze piece of paper with crayoned letters on it.

You know what I remember most about kindergarten? A long, long table with 30 or 40 kids sitting on either side of it doing nothing things we hated. I'd have been better off in my back yard eating bugs.

Don't talk to me about taking young kids out of a nurturing home environment and sticking them in some cold, gray schooroom. The Russians tried it. Didn't work for them, and it won't work for us.


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