Friday, March 18, 2011

Still Fiddling

I read where another congressional study, and there have been several over the past 45 years, that once again cast a critical pall over the performance of the federal Head Start program.  Since 1965, as part of President Johnson's "War on Poverty", Washington has spent $167 billion on trying to ready, mostly low income, three and four year olds for kindergarten by providing taxpayer funds which have attempted to "enhance the social and cognitive development of children through the provision of educational, health, nutritional, social and other services to enrolled children and families." The U. S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families' Office of Head Start website further states that the program "engage parents in their children's learning and help them in making progress toward their educational, literacy and employment goals. Significant emphasis is placed on the involvement of parents in the administration of local Head Start programs."  Sounds wonderful.  Too bad it doesn't work.

As I said, there have been a number of independent studies over the years that have concluded that these program children come to school with no more social or cognitive abilities than their non-program counterparts.  So why then do we continue to pay for this failure?  Let me repeat.  "Significant emphasis is placed on the involvement of parents in the administration of local Head Start programs."  In other words, we pay the very same people, the parents of these children, who are often themselves academically and socially needy, to teach their own not to emulate the destructive and debilitating behavior and practices they witness everyday in their own homes and neighborhoods.  Yeah, that's gonna work. 

Yesterday morning I watched Sen. Tom Coburn defend the Republican opposition to our president's healthcare plan by siting a new government study, this one by the Institute of Medicine, which has concluded that our healthcare system wastes $800 billion by not controlling costs.  This is $800 billion that Sen. Coburn rightly pointed out, "that doesn't cure anyone or prevent anyone from even getting sick."  The scarier fact, and I think we all know this, is that Obamacare will do nothing to prevent this from continuing.  Sen. Coburn was also struck by the fact that despite an overwhelming preponderance of Americans who want government spending brought under control, and even the president's own bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform recommends some impressive cuts, most Democrats (and even some Republicans), including President Obama, can't seem to cut much of anything.  What's the point then, I have to ask, of paying for studies or commissioning deliberative bodies for expert advice if the default position is going to be to ignore their input?  Enough already.

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