Reply to: Ben Markus – HPR News

Aloha Ben,

Thanks for your prompt reply. I’d only feel right if I sent along the
URL to a little ditty I wrote about said piece. I hope you will take
any polemical vibe as in the name of healthy dialectical policy

I do quite enjoy your work on HPR and hope you get a chance to read it:

[see previous: Preschool and The Great Training Robbery]



Submitted on 2009/02/25 at 11:49pm
Ben Markus – HPR News

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. [n.y.times, 12-16-08, Obama Pledge Stirs Hope in Early Education]

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

Aloha Ben,

Thanks for taking the time to comment. I’ll pass, on defending the decency of my ideas. Surely your insinuations are directed at others, no? It would be a sad state of democracy when questioning is equated with indecency. But I digress — back to your rebuttal (and my comments):

Prof. Berg’s study was indeed published some 40 years ago.

(I didn’t know about the 90’s update. And is the bit about U2 and Bush’s presidency to imply that the update is old too? Me, I wouldn’t disregard valid ideas from the past. Check out John Dewey, Bertrand Russell, or Thomas Paine–those cats are older yet–doesn’t detract from their ideas.)

Berg’s research is perhaps more readily dismissed because it threatens the legitimacy of professional education professors.

Let’s be clear on the terms: I fully support “preschool educators” and all teachers, actually in the trenches, trying to teach our keiki. However, education professors pushing their prescriptions for preschool bachelor degrees, advocating the very legitimacy of their right to feed mightily at the academic trough, are not preschool educators.

Ivar Berg notwithstanding, I base my assertions of teacher competency, or lack thereof, on my actual experience as a teacher. As a teacher, I’ve seen very talented teachers professionally discriminated against because they were “lacking” enough college degrees.

The education industry determines these things to sustain itself, and good people, with invaluable experience, leave the absurd situation. Conversely, “professional educators”, obedient of the: school duration=salary and prestige equation, remain in school and wham! They are the ones considered best for the jobs; never mind the fact that they have very few chops–owing to their exclusive ability to be schooled. (I don’t normally fault people for pursuing such things. However, when it is couched in terms of, “it’s for the children!” and yet ultimately exploits them, well then I’m compelled to write about what I’ve experienced.)

So Mr. Markus, when you or others bring up these just-cooked reports, by the very people and institutions that stake their validity on such notions — I ain’t buyin’ it.

As for turnover, naturally if the teachers without bachelor degrees are subjected to pay discrimination they either roll over and submit to this hogwash or they leave the profession. Remember who are conducting these studies — who are determining “idleness” for preschoolers. It’s a very convoluted argument, and the doctors of preschool education use a screwy success-yardstick (consciously or not) that measures becoming an academician as the shit when it comes to success. In reality, the role of “higher education” is way overdue for an assessment of where it may contribute to — and where is messes up societal health. For too long this priesthood of seemingly sacrosanct professional educators has been allowed exclusive rights to resources that belong to the entire community.

Incidentally, I see that you have chosen to ignore the rhetorical jive about how preschool teachers with bachelor degrees will help keep junior out of the slammer. Good for you — it’s a shameless riff meant to manipulate taxpayers. As for President Obama’s “consistent rhetoric regarding the importance of quality pre k”, he has indeed been tossing a lot of edu-rhetoric. Throughout his campaign too, Mr. Obama has typically touted “college education for everybody” as the strategy that’s gonna get America together–I ain’t buyin’ that either. Hawaii will soon require food and energy independence — through local reliability — if we are to sustain ourselves. Let’s not forget that Barack Obama most decidedly left Hawaii. It’d seem that expensive schooling and joining the very centers of global power have been very good moves for him. However, it is a mistake to assume that his path out of Hawaii is what is good for everybody else. I can assure you that our nation could never afford the cost of Punahou, and Harvard, and the rest, for everyone.

We need to assess these things in the context of our communities of people who choose to stay here. While my thoughts on this matter may not be popular — nor am I getting paid — truly healthy debate requires that dissenting voices be heard as well. In this sense anyway, the blogosphere might succeed. Otherwise, we have only those of the establishment, such as yourself, deciding what is ridiculous, what are decent questions and what constitutes service or disservice to our community.

Mahalo and best of luck in your journalistic efforts.


*The third and final part of this little back and forth is: To: Ben Markus, NY Times, US Government (and several others)

2 thoughts on “Reply to: Ben Markus – HPR News

  1. You said: “Incidentally, I see that you have chosen to ignore the rhetorical jive about how preschool teachers with bachelor degrees will help keep junior out of the slammer.”

    I didn’t directly correlate that BA’s for preschool teachers would keep keiki out of jail. What I said was: “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.”

    Also, Lawrence W. Sherman who is Director of The Jerry Lee Center of Criminology (at the very college of the great Ivar Berg) wrote in a National Institute of Justice report called Preventing Crime: What Works, What Doesn’t, What’s Promising. Research in Brief:


    Outside the home, the preschool and the school provide major opportunities for family-based crime prevention. Many of the prevention effects associated with early infancy home visits are impossible to separate from the simultaneous provision of a strong linkage between parents and preschool. As children age, the school takes over more of the child’s day, but many schools continue to seek parental involvement in reducing a child’s behavioral risk factors for delinquency.”

    Several sources from my report highlighted the importance of involving parents in preschool, though not specifically in regards to keeping the kids out of jail. And I’m sure there are studies I’ve missed, but I found this one with some pretty simple digging. Maybe that’s the problem with blogs–the reason only 20 people read this–it’s heavy on the angry opinion and light on levelheaded substance.

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