Thursday, June 30, 2005

Hyman and Head Start

A program that creates healthier, happier kids who are better prepared for school and which returns between five and ten dollars for every one dollar spent on it. Who could be against that?

Mark Hyman.

40 years of experience that shows the long term benefits (cognitive, social, emotional, and physical) for children enrolled in Head Start, Hyman thinks the program is “abysmal” and needs an “overhaul.”

Conservatives like Hyman don’t believe that society should pool its resources to help disadvantaged children. To them, poverty is the just desserts of laziness, and should not be assuaged with public funds.

It would be nice if they actually argued this point in an intellectually honest way, but since they realize that most Americans don’t buy into their bleak vision of what constitutes a just society, they distort the evidence.

This explains Hyman’s loaded language throughout his commentary. Ignoring the well-established benefits which include everything from kids being
better prepared for kindergarten to getting more regular checkups at the dentist, Hyman cites a recently released installment of a study of the benefits of Head Start on reading and math skills and concludes that the program gets a “D minus.”

There are three things to know about this study. First, it’s based on brand new standardized tests that haven’t been used before and which
many scholars find problematic. Second, the test only measures a few specific outcomes of Head Start and isn’t designed to pass judgment on whether Head Start as a whole works or doesn’t work.. For example, the health and social benefits of the program are not focused on. And lastly, despite all this, the study *does* show many areas of improvement among kids who have access to Head Start.

Critics suggest that because Head Start isn’t able to completely eliminate the performance gap between economically disadvantaged children and their more affluent peers when starting school, that the program is a failure. This is an unreasonable expectation to put on any program, one that conservatives would never apply to other governmental functions, such as defense.

With any government program, whether it’s Head Start or the Department of Defense, there are always ways to
make improvements, to make the system more efficient, and changes that should be made to meet new realities. Both Head Start and the Pentagon should be monitored and measured to find ways of improving performance.

But the argument that a program is a failure because it does not currently meet an ideal level of performance is worse than simplistic. Given the agenda of Hyman and others in the far right cohort of conservatism (to do away with Head Start in anything like its current form), it’s a dishonest way of trying to win an argument that they would surely lose based on the facts.

And that’s The Counterpoint.


At 5:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ted, Thank you for again making it clear what a frightening world we would (?) have if an out-of-touch and uncaring rich elite imposed their opinions at the expense and abuse of the public commons -- our airwaves. We see how Fox TV is not the Official News Network the Administration. Who needs a FOURTH estate?

It is frightening, and all who love our great country should be concerned. Other governments have whipped up the people in a frenzy of me-first indignation and hate. Those governments used to be scorned by the Right. No more.

The Rightwingers, always disdainful of the Terrible Left, and their Awful Emphasis on social programs, have put into place their Awful system, which only serves their own, privileged position.

It always gets back to this: what kind of country do we want to live in? I'll pass on the mean, smallminded vision of the Right.

Odd how right-wingers are so inconsistently silent about the abuses of the wealthy when it comes to media control. They would never stand for Big Brother Government, but think its okee-dokee to have a Big Brother Corporo-world. Strange.


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