Preschool and The Great Training Robbery

The following report by Ben Markus was broadcast on Hawaii Public Radio:

Recruiting Early Childhood Educators

President Obama has pledged billions for early childhood education. This new emphasis on preschool is prompted, in part, by new brain science… and economic studies. Researchers have shown that for every dollar spent on preschool many more dollars are saved in keeping kids out of special ED and even prison. HPR’s Ben Markus reports that Hawaii, like the rest of the nation, struggles most with recruiting qualified preschool teachers.

Aloha Mr. Markus,

Will you kindly provide me with the source for your assertion that preschool teachers with bachelor’s degrees perform more competently than non-degree-ed ones?



Aloha Darren

I got that from nearly every source referenced in the report. Specifically, Linda Buck, Early Learning Coordinator for Honolulu Community College. And also from Bob Peters, Head of Hanahau’oli School and co-chair of the State’s “Early Learning Council.” Dr. Peters says he won’t hire a preschool teacher below a BA/BS. Though, of course, Hanahau’oli is a rich school–$15,000 per year with only 15% getting tuition assistance. Where as the majority of the KCAA families are on some kind of assistance. In fact, that’s my next story maybe: the disparity between schools. Have you ever been to Hanahau’oli? What an amazing campus. Now, I know it wasn’t always like that, but still a 6 million dollar building in Makiki is pretty nice. Trust me, there is no mendacity in my report (only innocent mistakes). – Ben

In all due respect Mr. Markus, I find the report indeed quite mendacious. And having this little blog, I’m compelled to write my own take for my 5 to as many as 12 readers:

Your Hawaii Public Radio piece begins by stating that: while nearly all preschool teachers love children, the problem is that, love of children notwithstanding, we have teachers that are not necessarily trained as early childhood educators — well meaning and children loving yes, but..

The problem?

Well, they just don’t have enough college degrees.

Many lack bachelor degrees, most have associate degrees, and (gasp!) some have no degrees at all–not a single one! Oh ya — the guy spewing this has a doctor degree. Surely, he knows more than most ’cause he went to school the longest, right? The longer you attend school, the more capable you become — right?

Horseshit! Oops, I forgot about my new term–learned it from the dictionary–MEN-DA-CITY! Just doesn’t sound the same as horseshit, but I guess I better use fancy words — That’s how education doctors like Dr. Peters talk.

Anyway, then the report takes us to Christina Cox, president of KCAA–seven preschools with over a thousand preschoolers. Ms. Cox informs us of the dire lack of qualified preschool teachers. Okay, now qualified preschool teacher becomes equated with someone who attends preschool education college and, bingo! we get trained early education educators–See how that works? Who could argue with such sensible logic?

Me, for one.

Cox: “They deserve the best education we can give them so…you know, you gotta rise to the occasion.”

Markus goes on to say that that’s the reason Ms. Cox started a program whereby these unqualified, nay, dangerous people without degrees can sit at home in front of their computer screen (the Virtual Training Institute) and, you got it–become qualified! Oh, and not to worry–it’s all paid for by grants and foundations–well, unless the virtual trainees decline to work for KCAA.

Markus doesn’t really explore that angle about who’s paying who. He should.

So then we hear an enthusiastic endorsement for such absurdity, from a student who really seems to think that the bit about being able to just go online for training is…much easier. I don’t doubt that. And guess what else? The virtual educator trainers provide real neato laptops with wireless.

Gonna take six years just to get that invaluable associates degree, but heck, they got you covered. Markus informs us that it will be long and tedious. I certainly don’t doubt the validity of that part of his story either. I wonder if the technology angle is a source of revenue in this scheme. Do you think?

Enter Dr. Peters again (remember him? The Early Learning Council) He says, yep, it’s gonna be tough. Lot’s of school I tell ya. Can’t be helped. Teachers gotta work, right?

But wait! He’s got the scoops on some nice stipends so the education consuming trainees don’t have to work as much. (Remember–half of them already work as preschool teachers, albeit as ones “lacking training”, so now they can stop practicing their vocation, to learn, as Peters puts it.)

This brings us to Linda Buck who informs us about the “unhappy situation” of the constant turnover of preschool teachers due to a lack of bucks. Indeed, as Markus then points out: preschool teachers generally earn less money than other teachers. You can bet that these kahunas of education are making way more than the teachers charged with keeping four year-olds from… from what? shitting their pants? doing stupid dangerous four year-old things? not reading Chaucer?

Wrong you are.

They–well, the ones with bachelor degrees anyway–are keeping our kids outta prison! Sure! Don’t you know that?–says right on the HPR website: RESEARCHERS HAVE SHOWN THAT SPENDING MONEY ON THESE PROGRAMS DESIGNED BY THESE EXPERTS KEEPS OUR KIDS OUT OF PRISON.

So there you have it: more money, less prison; It’s a win/win…well, if we get with these education doctors’ programs, that is.

And Markus personally assures me that there ain’t the slightest teeny bit of bs in his report.

Jeez. Sorry gang. Don’t know what came over me.

First and foremost, we have a myth being perpetrated by these professional educators. The myth — which is essential for this scam to continue — is that: training at school equals competence on the job. There’s a very good book on this subject by a sociology professor, Ivar Berg. It’s called The Great Training Robbery and it shows convincingly that: there is absolutely no connection between the subjects people have learned in school and the effectiveness of those people in jobs requiring preparation in those subjects.

Does that sound a little odd to you? Does that call the legitimacy of professional educators into question? If indeed this were true, should a meritocracy that advances position and compensation based on flawed logic be reformed?

Berg does show that there is a definite connection between one’s duration of schooling and one’s income. However, I am talking about competence, which is a different matter. This is the very crucial point that Markus is seemingly oblivious to. And it is pathetically mendacious to imply that preschool teachers with bachelor degrees are more competent than those without.

I’m a lifelong teacher (and student) with two degrees and I’ve seen ample proof of Berg’s conclusions in my experience with many different levels and types of schooling. Truly wise and competent teachers have learned their skills through their experiences. Educators with extensive pedigrees are often the least prepared to sensibly foster healthy learning environments — something about jumping through misguided school hoops can (but not always) make them somewhat senseless (maybe well-spoken too, but not necessarily competent).

For self-preservation, these doctors of education come up with studies and programs to further legitimize their masquerade. Nevertheless, to behave as technocrat-parasitic-educators — feeding off of the sustenance of said illusion — is oppressive and exploitative of our children. We should know better. (As supportive as I am of labor unions, I’d be remiss if I didn’t add that teacher unions too often conspire in this falsehood.)

And no, this doesn’t mean brain surgeons or 747 pilots should not be trained. It means that experientially based learning ought not be discounted by academicians who are placed in positions of stewardship of our children’s learning. Promoting such training myths actually stupefies our community. As such, these professional educators are derelict in their duties — albeit well-paid — mostly by taxpayers.

Women (men too) who have actually had life experiences with four-year olds ought not be discriminated against — or made to feel inadequate along these lines, when it comes to our communities teaching their children. To be sure, we must hire competent people for these positions — and pay them adequately. However, this fundamental flaw of the current status quo must be recognized and corrected.

Hawaii Public Radio, advocating for this hidden and misguided agenda, should answer to the public if they are going to be asking for money from the public. We are charting new waters in our economy and we owe it to our keiki to stay clear on: what learning policies lead to healthy communities, and which ones should be called out as problematic to our Hawaiian community — Not wasting resources, as fundamental public policy, requires as much.

Mr. Markus, thanks for your prompt reply to my email. I’d really like to know how this report came into being and who decided that it would be a worthwhile message to broadcast.

How to find out?

Just look at who is peddling the consumption of education training (and training for education consumption).

In any case, it has a distinctly mendacious odor.


(note: this policy discussion continues as: Reply to: Ben Markus – HPR News)

2 thoughts on “Preschool and The Great Training Robbery

  1. 150 years ago there was not pre-school and Americans were the most literate people in the word. Flash forward…I don’t think we can say the same thing.

  2. Ah, the blogosphere. A place where anybody can say anything–generally without decency.

    For you to insinuate that Hawaii Public Radio is in the pocket of preschool educators is ridiculous. And to question the financial support of a station that’s trying to provoke healthy debate on issues surrounding education because you don’t agree with an aspect of one story is a disservice to the community.

    Berg. Ivar Berg.

    Berg’s study was first published in 1970. That was nearly 40 years ago. Granted, it was updated in the ’90’s. Remember where you were in the ’90’s. U2 was on top of the charts. George H. W. Bush was busy winning a war and losing an election.

    I’ll admit there is debate on the issue of college education’s impact on pre k quality. But I think the strongest evidence lines up behind a B.A. as a good baseline of education for pre k teachers. A joint UC Berkeley and Georgetown University report (2004–all of four years ago) from the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment found, “Centers with a higher percentage of teachers with bachelor’s degrees had better ratings of overall quality and teacher sensitivity, and children were less likely to be idle or unoccupied. These centers also had lower rates of teaching staff turnover.” Staff turnover is also a salient issue revolving around pre k education mentioned by almost every source in the report.

    As to your question about why I produced the story on pre k education. I started research for this report after reading an article in the New York Times about a month and a half ago. The article highlighted the excitement in the Early Education community about Obama’s consistent rhetoric regarding the importance of quality pre k.

    I’m sure you’d rather believe, that instead, all that big money floating around preschool educators was the real bait.

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