To: Ben Markus, NY Times, US Government (and several others)

(For the sake of context: this triad of posts began with HPR reporter Ben Marcus’ report: Recruiting Early Childhood Educators. That radio report compelled me to comment, as I see “qualified preschool educators” being equated with ones who take up preschool education bachelor degrees (now consumable online) as a myth that, while good for college enrollment, does a disservice to our keiki and the gullible people who submit to such things. Ben has a different take and has..kindly weighed in on the discussion.)

Ben Markus – HPR News:

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.

Aloha Ben,

Thanks again for taking the time to further engage in this dialog. It’d seem that matters of public policy should be discussed by the broader community. Though labeling concerned community members’ dissenting opinion as angry is perhaps counterproductive.

Given the fact that you were essentially echoing the narrative of the New York Times piece, which was in turn publishing its typical advocacy for the federal government’s agenda, I’d just as soon reply to their piece. You seem to want to go to the: “you’re just a blogger dumbass”-thing. Still, I suspect that we actually have similar concerns and hopes for our keiki.

The Times piece cites an economist, James J. Heckman, who says that spending government money to nurture young children actually saves money by reducing future expenditures on remedial education, teenage pregnancy and prison.

And I, blogger-guy in Puna, say: “money to nurture young children” is not necessarily “dollars spent on preschool” as you interpret this. And while I basically agree with Heckman’s statement, I think it is a far stretch (actually, a spin) to translate such a statement to mean that we should require our preschool teachers to have bachelor degrees. Mr. Heckman’s statement could certainly be taken to imply that we should be spending money wisely: investments that ensure community health and sustainability.

As for the other “much-cited study” that apparently shows that: “a preschool program that offered high-quality services to a few dozen black children found that the investment, 40 years later, had rendered economic returns to society of some $244,000 per child, much of that in savings from reduced criminal activity” — That perhaps was the case. I don’t really know. I do know that we’re not somewhere in Michigan in the 1960s, but more importantly, and the main point of my original comments is that, nurturing young children and offering high-quality preschool services ought not to be equated with bachelor degree programs.

What does President Obama and our Secretary of Education think about all this?

Mr. Obama’s platform, which Mr. Duncan helped write, emphasizes extending care to infants and toddlers as well, and it makes helping poor children a priority. It would also provide new federal financing for states rolling out programs to serve young children of all incomes.

I’m all for that too. However, I reiterate that, “rolling out programs to serve young children of all incomes” does not necessarily mean that preschool teachers should be rolled into the college degree (worse yet, online) programs that you cite in your report. Nor do I deny that such use of public funding does indeed keep the college “educators” in business. What I’m saying is that, like public healthcare, the profit-making, by insurance companies or academic institutions, needs to be taken out of the equation. Let market economics remain where they belong, and let’s not conflate them with matters of public health.

Unfortunately, the immense lobbying efforts by these vested corporate interests result in community health perpectives not being given rightful voice in the discussion. If you, and others who are threatened by a changing of the guard in media, want to try and marginalize through aspersions of “heavy on the angry opinion and light on levelheaded substance“, go right ahead. Me, I’ll continue to write to my..several readers (mahalo several!–you know who you are) and perhaps we can further civil heartfelt discussions of community health.

Thanks for your reply.

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