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Reminiscing about the first grade last week has caused my brain to spin nearly non-stop since.

We regularly hear and read about how critical it is to develop and make available pre-school for all children. Politicians are lobbied to provide funding for pre-school. And of course, the need for pre-school is always tied to the current “most popular buzz word” FAIRNESS.

DETOUR —- Let me be the first to break this to you, but none of us is guaranteed “fairness” in this life. The Declaration of Independence (not the Constitution) states “that we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

In the beginning . . .

There are so very moving parts in the education today that it is pretty hard to know where to begin and on what to focus. I will try to keep it simple.

I still believe that money is at the root of a lot of the issues with education. Early US schools were the classic one room models. All ages were in one room/building. These schools usually ended at grade eight.

Have you ever seen some of the test questions for the eighth grade graduation test? My October 13, 2014 blog, “Too Much Oversight?” lists some of the questions on a typical eighth grade final in the late 19th century. These questions are not for the feint of heart.

More importantly the schools, teachers and money were local. They functioned as they were envisioned in the Constitution. And they did an excellent job!

I believe that the explosion in homeschooling reflects a desire to return to the simpler (and more effective) days of education.

Follow the money . . .

As the country grew, the schools grew, and by the mid twentieth century, the federal government could no longer sit by and allow local people to control that money. How could they get control of local money designated for schools? Create the U.S. Department of Education!

Although the schools don’t get all of their money from the federal government, enough is tied to it to force schools to bow down to this federal agency. One of the most recent examples is how President Obama tied federal education money to following his Race to the Top requirements.

Looking back again . . .

In the mid twentieth century about the time the powers that be decided our educational system was in dire straits, the majority of children lived in two parent homes. “Inner city” schools were some of the best in the area. No need to comment on the current state of either of these.

I continue to question the premise that our education was/is so bad. America is probably the most heterogeneous country in the world! With that make-up comes numerous and varied value sets and goals. The countries who regularly rank higher than the US are much smaller and more homogeneous. These two details make a big difference.

Pre-school . . .

The other element in this educational stew is pre-school. I am not opposed to pre-school, but I do wonder if we are doing as much harm as good.

Another often repeated “need” is pre-school for everyone. Government at all levels is being shamed into finding money for this.

There is no arguing that children who have attended a quality pre-school are ahead of those who don’t. And like just about everything else in America, the children in the impoverished areas lag well behind their peers.

Several studies have shown that by the end of the elementary years, any gain children had by attending pre-school has disappeared. Additionally, the percentage of students who need to take remedial classes in college has remained fairly constant.

Where does that leave us?

Pay attention to what your local schools are doing. If your child does not or cannot attend a pre-school, work with them at home. They may begin school behind their peers, but chances are, they will catch up. Help but don’t stress!

Don’t get caught up in educational platitudes coming out of Washington.

Frankly, that’s the last place I’d look to for guidance!

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