Thursday, September 21, 2017

Investing in young children

Head Start, a federal program for pre-schoolers to prepare them for school, was declared a failure after 40 years and again after 50 years and trillions of dollars by the government’s own assessment. No politician for 55 years has dared suggest dismantling it, and the only solution was more money and more fiddling with the design which tries to make up for no dad in the home, low income of young single moms and the chaotic living conditions of the children, which may include mom’s boyfriends, or abuse, or foster care, couch surfers, poor nutrition, unsafe neighborhoods, etc.
Then came Early Head Start in 1994—practically beginning with pre-natal care. EHS had by 2009 over 650 programs. Despite marginal increases in the percent of parents who read to children through EHS, by age 5 there was no improvement even with rigorous studies.  EHS and Head Start don't change the family dynamics. So I was somewhat surprised when I read about a genetic design (although nothing surprises me much these days where bureaucracy and government grants are concerned).

“Using genetically-informed designs. Because genetic differences play an important role in children’s academic achievement and behavioral adjustment,  research to inform EHS should make use of methods that take genetic factors into account. Examples are studies using twins and adopted children as experimental subjects.”  (10 ideas, Nicholas Zill)

That’s the kind of talk that gets Charles Murray kicked off liberal college campuses. Even so, it’s darn scary to put “genetic differences” into the hands of the federal bureaucracy, the only component that has grown and advanced ($100 million in 1965, $16 billion in 2011)  in the whole Head Start half a century of no progress.

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