Category Archives: Children

Universal pre-K is bad for everyone

Given the continuous study information that Head Start doesn’t really give anyone a head start, it does seem like families need childcare, not pre-school. Excellent points in this post from Penelope Trunk:

In his last State of the Union speech President Obama proposed that we have universal preschool in the US. It’s appalling to me that he wants to pour money into preschool programs that are so out of sync with what families need.

Women have been very vocal about not wanting to work full-time while they have kids. And we have recognized as a nation that our school system is out of date and a waste of time for kids. So why are we dumping money into an institution that does not meet anyone’s needs?

Women don’t want a preschool system.
Most women want to stay home with their kids or work part-time. But some women don’t have enough money to do that and they need to work full-time. Other women who can afford to work part-time have huge difficulty finding rewarding, engaging part-time work because most of the exciting work in our economy is full-time.

Women going back to work full-time is not good for the kids when the women themselves feel they are gone from the kids for too much time.  But women working part-time is good for young kids for a wide range of reasons.

This means that universal preschool does very little for working women. It doesn’t allow women to work full-time, because preschool isn’t full-time, and it doesn’t provide part-time jobs for women who want them.

Preschool does not help most kids.
Kids with educated parents do not need to go to preschool. So preschool primarily benefits kids with uneducated parents. Preschool can help those kids start out on equal footing with kids of educated parents.

Children who have educated parents should be playing when they are preschool age. They learn through play. They do not need to learn to sit still and stand in line and play only when the teacher says play….

We do need good childcare.
What everyone wants is good childcare.
That’s why they send their kids to school – because school is our state-funded babysitting system.  Parents who are home with their kids want to have a break from their kids. Parents depend on school to provide that break from parenting duties, but we have no system for giving parents breaks when kids are not school age.

At best, universal pre-K is a babysitting service. Middle-class parents can’t afford good child care, which Obama says in his speech, and he says that preschool is a childcare solution more than an education solution. The real issue here is that he wants to give good childcare to the parents who want it.

That’s really different from saying that all kids should go to school….

Putting universal pre-K on the table is taking away the very idea of choice that women have been fighting for. Women should have a choice to work or stay home with kids. Women should be able to choose parenting. Today we raise girls to think they are in school expressly to get a job that is not parenting. That’s as damaging to girls as telling them they are going to school to stay home and have kids.

We do not need our politicians to use their federal funding to denigrate the job of parenting any more than so much of society already does….

Focus on deadbeat dads instead of universal pre-K.
Here is my proposed solution. First, promote marriage. Yes, it’s judgmental and pushing cultural values onto individual citizens. But so is universal pre-K. Marriage, however, is much more successful at giving kids a good chance in life:  keeping a marriage together decreases the chance of a child living in poverty by 80%.

And let’s go after deadbeat dads. The majority of low-income kids are not living with their dad.  I do not believe that low-income moms are different than high-income moms; I think l0w-income moms also would choose to be home with their kids over working full-time….

Read it all.

The rise of childless Americans

The future belongs to those who show up.

Where does that leave us today? With one final, scary thought. What if our new reality—the fact that a fifth of Americans no longer bother to have children at all—exerts its own pull on our demographics? There’s some data from Europe and the Far East to suggest that once a critical mass of people choose to remain childless, their example influences young adults and alters their behaviors and expectations. To give you just one example, Germany has had a higher degree of childlessness than America, and for a longer time. In a 2006 survey of fertility aspirations, 23 percent of German men said that having no children was the ideal form of family life. Think about that for a moment. And now think about what it means for a civilization to have a quarter of its men not interested in having any children at all.

It calls to mind a deeply profound point from Christopher Caldwell’s recent profile of Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán. Confronting his country’s demographic crisis, Orbán said:

Demography is the key factor. If you are not able to maintain yourself biologically, how do you expect to maintain yourself economically, politically, and militarily?” he asks. “It’s impossible. The answer of letting people from other countries come in …that could be an economic solution, but it’s not a solution of your real sickness, that you are not able to maintain your own civilization.

The reason we care about fertility numbers and demographics is because this—our civilization—is exactly what’s at stake.

Anglican Church of Uganda responds to Kony 2012 campaign

From StandFirm (check out their new look):

The Church of Uganda has been made aware of the Kony 2012 campaign initiated by the US-based organization, Invisible Children.

Joseph Kony and the LRA left Uganda in 2006 at the beginning of the Juba peace talks and haven’t been in Uganda for more than five years. Since then, the people of Northern Uganda have been returning to their homes and have begun the long and difficult process of healing and rebuilding their lives, their families, and their communities. The Church of Uganda has been deeply involved in that process at every level. While there are the normal challenges of any country, Uganda is a country at peace, working hard on development, and takes pride in its description as the “Pearl of Africa.”

Under the leadership of the Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, the Most Rev. Henry Luke Orombi, the Church of Uganda made advocacy for the end of the war in Northern Uganda a primary concern. The Archbishop and Bishops of the Church of Uganda led a delegation of 70 people to Gulu and the Pabbo IDP camp in February 2004, immediately after his enthronement as Archbishop, as an act of solidarity with them and to offer encouragement. The Archbishop spoke out repeatedly on the need for peaceful resolution to the conflict, and met on several occasions with the President to advocate for peace and an end to the war. Through the Uganda Joint Christian Council, the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative, and our Dioceses operating in the affected areas, the Church of Uganda has worked with many other community leaders to restore peace in Northern Uganda and engage in the process of healing and rebuilding the North from the lingering effects of Joseph Kony.

Although the Juba Peace Talks did not produce a peace agreement, life without the threat of LRA attacks returned to Northern Uganda in 2006. The Church of Uganda, however, seriously regrets the failure of the peace talks that has resulted in Joseph Kony and the LRA continuing their brutal attacks on the people of Congo, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic. It grieves us deeply to know that others are still experiencing the brutality we lived through for twenty years.

The Church of Uganda has consistently advocated for peaceful means of conflict resolution. Archbishop Henry Orombi wrote in a January 2006 editorial to Christianity Today, “When you read reports of a certain number of LRA rebels killed by the Ugandan army, remember that these rebels are our abducted and brainwashed children. When reading about LRA “rebels,” always substitute the word “children” for rebels. The military solution has failed for 20 years; only genuine dialogue and negotiation has come closest to ending the war.”

Invisible Children have been a good partner with the Church of Uganda, and we thank them for standing with us when we were working to keep the need for a peaceful resolution to the war before the government. We also thank them for standing with us in the long and still ongoing process of rebuilding families and communities in Northern Uganda. They have helped us rebuild schools, send children to school, and build capacity among our teachers through training and exchange trips. It is unfortunate, however, that there was not a wider consultation with the local community on how to portray the current challenges facing the people of Northern Uganda and to accurately let them speak in their own voice.

The successful use of social marketing to get out a message is commendable and we urge Invisible Children to empower Ugandans with these tools and skills to enable their voices to be heard and appreciated….

Read it all. If you’re interested in an insider’s view of the Lord’s Resistance Army and the terror Kony imposed on parts of Uganda, read Girl Soldier by Grace Akallo, who was abducted as a child, co-authored with Faith McDonnell of the Institute of Religion & Democracy.

And here’s an interview I did with Archbishop Orombi in May 2007 for Anglican TV:

Chaput: A thread for weaving joy

From Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, Diocese of Philadelphia, speaking at the Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life in Washington, DC:

…In practice, medical professionals can now steer an expectant mother toward abortion simply by hinting at a list of the child’s possible defects.  And the most debased thing about that kind of pressure is that doctors know better than anyone else how vulnerable a woman can be in hearing potentially tragic news about her unborn baby.

I’m not suggesting that doctors should hold back vital knowledge from parents. Nor should they paint an implausibly upbeat picture of life with a child who has a disability. Facts and resources are crucial in helping adult persons prepare themselves for difficult challenges. But doctors, genetic counselors, and medical school professors should have on staff – or at least on speed dial – experts of a different sort.

Parents of children with special needs, special education teachers and therapists, and pediatricians who have treated children with disabilities often have a hugely life-affirming perspective. Unlike prenatal caregivers, these professionals have direct knowledge of persons with special needs. They know their potential.  They’ve seen their accomplishments. They can testify to the benefits – often miraculous – of parental love and faith.  Expectant parents deserve to know that a child with Down syndrome can love, laugh, learn, work, feel hope and excitement, make friends, and create joy for others.  These things are beautiful precisely because they transcend what we expect.  They witness to the truth that every child with special needs has a value that matters eternally.

Raising a child with Down syndrome can be demanding.  It always involves some degree of suffering.  Parents grow up very fast.  None of my friends who has a daughter or son with a serious disability is melodramatic, or self-conscious, or even especially pious about it.  They speak about their special child with an unsentimental realism.  It’s a realism flowing out of love – real love, the kind that forces its way through fear and suffering to a decision, finally, to surround the child with their heart and trust in the goodness of God.  And that decision to trust, of course, demands not just real love, but also real courage.

The real choice in accepting or rejecting a child with special needs is never between some imaginary perfection or imperfection.  None of us is perfect.  No child is perfect.  The real choice in accepting or rejecting a child with special needs is between love and unlove; between courage and cowardice; between trust and fear.  That’s the choice we face when it happens in our personal experience.  And that’s the choice we face as a society in deciding which human lives we will treat as valuable, and which we will not….

The Nobel Peace Prize winner Albert Schweitzer once wrote that, “A man is truly ethical only when he obeys the compulsion to help all life which he is able to assist, and shrinks from injuring anything that lives.” Every child with Down syndrome, every adult with special needs; in fact, every unwanted unborn child, every person who is poor, weak, abandoned or homeless – each one of these persons is an icon of God’s face and a vessel of his love.  How we treat these persons – whether we revere them and welcome them, or throw them away in distaste – shows what we really believe about human dignity, both as individuals and as a nation.

The American Jesuit scholar Father John Courtney Murray once said that “Anyone who really believes in God must set God, and the truth of God, above all other considerations.”

Here’s what that means.  Catholic public officials who take God seriously cannot support laws that attack human dignity without lying to themselves, misleading others and abusing the faith of their fellow Catholics.  God will demand an accounting.  Catholic doctors who take God seriously cannot do procedures, prescribe drugs or support health policies that attack the sanctity of unborn children or the elderly; or that undermine the dignity of human sexuality and the family.  God will demand an accounting.  And Catholic citizens who take God seriously cannot claim to love their Church, and then ignore her counsel on vital public issues that shape our nation’s lifeGod will demand an accounting.  As individuals, we can claim to believe whatever we want.  We can posture, and rationalize our choices, and make alibis with each other all day long — but no excuse for our lack of honesty and zeal will work with the God who made us.  God knows our hearts better than we do.  If we don’t conform our hearts and actions to the faith we claim to believe, we’re only fooling ourselves.

We live in a culture where our marketers and entertainment media compulsively mislead us about the sustainability of youth; the indignity of old age; the avoidance of suffering; the denial of death; the nature of real beauty; the impermanence of every human love; the oppressiveness of children and family; the silliness of virtue; and the cynicism of religious faith.  It’s a culture of fantasy, selfishness, sexual confusion and illness that we’ve brought upon ourselves.  And we’ve done it by misusing the freedom that other — and greater — generations than our own worked for, bled for and bequeathed to our safe-keeping.

What have we done with that freedom?  In whose service do we use it now?

Catholics need to wake up from the illusion that the America we now live in – not the America of our nostalgia or imagination or best ideals, but the real America we live in here and now – is somehow friendly to our faith.  What we’re watching emerge in this country is a new kind of paganism, an atheism with air-conditioning and digital TV.  And it is neither tolerant nor morally neutral.

As the historian Gertrude Himmelfarb observed more than a decade ago, “What was once stigmatized as deviant behavior is now tolerated and even sanctioned; what was once regarded as abnormal has been normalized.”  But even more importantly, she added, “As deviancy is normalized, so what was once normal becomes deviant.  The kind of family that has been regarded for centuries as natural and moral – the ‘bourgeois’ family as it is invidiously called – is now seen as pathological” and exclusionary, concealing the worst forms of psychic and physical oppression.

My point is this:  Evil talks about tolerance only when it’s weak.  When it gains the upper hand, its vanity always requires the destruction of the good and the innocent, because the example of good and innocent lives is an ongoing witness against it.  So it always has been.  So it always will be.  And America has no special immunity to becoming an enemy of its own founding beliefs about human freedom, human dignity, the limited power of the state, and the sovereignty of God….

Read it all.

Klavan: The tyranny of hip (or the bigotry of cool)

A consideration by Andrew Klavan on our culture of “non-judgmentalism”:

Among those fixes, as [sociologist Charles Murray, author of Coming Apart] said in a recent article in the paper of record (the Wall Street Journal):

The best thing that the new upper class can do… is to drop its condescending “non-judgmentalism.” Married, educated people who work hard and conscientiously raise their kids shouldn’t hesitate to voice their disapproval of those who defy these norms. When it comes to marriage and the work ethic, the new upper class must start preaching what it practices.

This is so clearly true that the only real question is: why don’t they? If marriage and religion give smart people joy and improve their living standards, why don’t they spread the word?

I believe one reason is the Tyranny of Hip: the unwillingness of grownups to be thought of as uncool. We seem to have a horror of shedding the mantles of the heroes of romance in order to take on the roles of the crusty but wise chaperones. Even when Red State’s Erick Erickson and cultural blogger Dr. Melissa Clouthier among others courageously grasped the nettle recently and took the girls and boys of CPAC to task for dressing like hookers and acting like johns, they were at pains to explain that they were talking about time and place appropriateness not morals — which still didn’t protect them from the usual hail of superior-sounding irony that followed.

No one wants to be the butt of the cool kids’ jokes like that. No critic who values his relevance wants to point out that Bridesmaids soiling themselves while in wedding regalia is not really funny; or that Katy Perry’s hummable hit tunes peddling alcohol abuse and cheap sex to 12-year-olds are reprehensible; or that Sacha Baron Cohen mocking ordinary people for their non-ironic faith, manners or dedication can be at once hilarious and morally wrong — like laughing at a slapstick accident that leaves someone dead. No one wants to turn into the old man waving his cane from the porch rocking chair shouting at the young folks to stop all their goldarned canoodling and quit parading around with their hoo-has and what-nots hanging out, for the love of Mike.

And yet the nation hungers for just such behavior. Witness the recent YouTube video of a father punishing his spoiled daughter for a snarky Facebook post by plugging her laptop with a .45. The thing went viral to the tune of tens of millions of viewers. Why? Because it was wonderful to see someone finally step up and be Daddy.

Being Daddy, no matter what people say, is not primarily a matter of telling people what not to do, nor is it a matter, in my opinion, of scaring them with the consequences of poor behavior. Family leaders rather model, proclaim and support the way people behave when they treat themselves like people instead of meat puppets: i.e. when they make their flesh serve their dignity, love and joy, which sometimes means delaying and even denying more immediate and strictly physical pleasures.

Read it all.

Penelope Trunk: What Facebook’s IPO means for women

Penelope Trunk, always interesting:

After the Facebook IPO, Sheryl Sandberg will become number two on the list of richest self-made women. She is the COO of Facebook.  For those of you not familiar with her career, there’s a nice summary in the New York Times. But the bottom line is that she is really smart (Harvard), a really hard worker (startups, Google, Facebook), a great speaker (here’s a commencement speech) ,and she’s married to a guy who is also making tons of money in startups.

There is nothing, really, that is bad to say about Sandberg. And she works very hard to encourage other women to go as far as she has gone.

The problem is, very few women want to be Sandberg, but there is very little discussion of this.

Sandberg has two young kids. She runs a company that is very public about having “lock-ins” to move fast enough to compete with Google, and they have open hours for kids to come to Facebook offices to say goodnight to their parents, who are working very long hours.

She encourages women to have ambition and “never take their foot off the gas pedal,” but very, very few women would choose to do this after they have kids. Pew Research shows that the majority of women would like to work part-time after they have kids. So it’s hard to tell that demographic that they should work 100-hour weeks at startups instead.

It’s revealing that the New York Times profile of Sandberg shows her surrounded by men who are only marginally involved in raising their kids….

Sandberg wants to be a role model for women who want big, exciting careers. But here’s the problem: women don’t want to be Sandberg. It’s no coincidence that the number-one woman on the list of self-made millionaires is Oprah. She has no kids and no husband. She’s fascinating, nice, and smart. But few of us would really enjoy her life.

Sandberg and Oprah represent extreme choices in life. The things they give up are not things that most women would want to give up in exchange for the wild career success they could have.

Sandberg’s right when she says that the thing holding women back is women’s ambition. But I don’t see that changing any time soon. Even after the Facebook IPO. I’m afraid that what the Facebook IPO means for women is nothing. Sandberg is not a role model. She’s an aberration.

You can’t have small kids and a startup if you want to see your kids….

Read it all (and read the comments, too).

N.C. nanny state: Preschooler’s homemade lunch replaced with cafeteria “nuggets” [UPDATED]

[UPDATE] My suspicious nature says, “Follow the money.” Who has the contract to provide food and is getting taxpayer money for every meal they give out? From the John W. Pope Civitas Institute, more on the story:

A mother in Hoke County complains her daughter was forced to eat a school lunch because a government inspector determined her home-made lunch did not meet nutrition requirements. In fact, all of the students in the NC Pre-K program classroom at West Hoke Elementary School in Raeford had to accept a school lunch in addition to their lunches brought from home.

NC Pre-K (before this year known as More at Four) is a state-funded education program designed to “enhance school readiness” for four year-olds.

The mother, who doesn’t wish to be identified at this time, says she made her daughter a lunch that contained a turkey and cheese sandwich, a banana, apple juice and potato chips. A state inspector assessing the pre-K program at the school said the girl also needed a vegetable, so the inspector ordered a full school lunch tray for her. While the four-year-old was still allowed to eat her home lunch, the girl was forced to take a helping of chicken nuggets, milk, a fruit and a vegetable to supplement her sack lunch.

The mother says the girl was so intimidated by the inspection process that she was too scared to eat all of her homemade lunch. The girl ate only the chicken nuggets provided to her by the school, so she still didn’t eat a vegetable.

The mother says her daughter doesn’t like vegetables and – like most four year olds – will only eat them at home under close supervision….

The mother added, “It’s just a headache to keep arguing and fighting. I’ve even wrote a note to her teachers and said do not give my daughter anything else unless it comes out of her lunchbox and they are still going against me and putting a milk in front of her every day.

“Friday she came home and said ‘Mom, they give me vegetable soup and a milk,’” said the mother.

“So I went to the cafeteria to make sure she had no fee and it’s not being charged to her account yet,” she continued, ” but what concerned me was that I got a letter from the principal and it says students who do not bring a healthy lunch will be offered the missing portions which may result in a fee from the cafeteria. So if I don’t stay on top of her account on a weekly basis there’s that opportunity that charges could be put on her account and then if I let it go too far then it’s like I’m going to have a big battle.”…

[Original] I mean, how nutritious do you think the school’s “nuggets” were? And tell me again why the state is inspecting children’s lunch boxes? From the Carolina Journal:

State agent inspects sack lunches, forces preschoolers to purchase cafeteria food instead

A preschooler at West Hoke Elementary School ate three chicken nuggets for lunch Jan. 30 because a state employee told her the lunch her mother packed was not nutritious.

The girl’s turkey and cheese sandwich, banana, potato chips, and apple juice did not meet U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines, according to the interpretation of the agent who was inspecting all lunch boxes in her More at Four classroom that day.

The Division of Child Development and Early Education at the Department of Health and Human Services requires all lunches served in pre-kindergarten programs — including in-home day care centers — to meet USDA guidelines. That means lunches must consist of one serving of meat, one serving of milk, one serving of grain, and two servings of fruit or vegetables, even if the lunches are brought from home.

When home-packed lunches do not include all of the required items, child care providers must supplement them with the missing ones.

The girl’s mother — who said she wishes to remain anonymous to protect her daughter from retaliation — said she received a note from the school stating that students who did not bring a “healthy lunch” would be offered the missing portions, which could result in a fee from the cafeteria, in her case $1.25.

“I don’t feel that I should pay for a cafeteria lunch when I provide lunch for her from home,” the mother wrote in a complaint to her state representative, Republican G.L. Pridgen of Robeson County.

The girl’s grandmother, who sometimes helps pack her lunch, told Carolina Journal that she is a petite, picky 4-year-old who eats white whole wheat bread and is not big on vegetables.

“What got me so mad is, number one, don’t tell my kid I’m not packing her lunch box properly,” the girl’s mother told CJ. “I pack her lunchbox according to what she eats. It always consists of a fruit. It never consists of a vegetable. She eats vegetables at home because I have to watch her because she doesn’t really care for vegetables.”

When the girl came home with her lunch untouched, her mother wanted to know what she ate instead. Three chicken nuggets, the girl answered. Everything else on her cafeteria tray went to waste.

“She came home with her whole sandwich I had packed, because she chose to eat the nuggets on the lunch tray, because they put it in front of her,” her mother said. “You’re telling a 4-year-old. ‘oh. you’re lunch isn’t right,’ and she’s thinking there’s something wrong with her food.”…

Read it all. I think her lunch from home sounded pretty good. Glad my child’s out of elementary school. (And the state agent telling the girl the lunch her mother packed wasn’t good enough undercuts parental authority big time!)

Elisabeth’s barrenness and ours

"Visitation" from Altarpiece of the Virgin (St Vaast Altarpiece) by Jacques Daret, c. 1435 (Staatliche Museen, Berlin)Drawing on the story of Elizabeth and Zacharias from the Gospel of Luke, Mark Steyn writes:

…The notion of life as a self-growth experience is more radical than it sounds. For most of human history, functioning societies have honored the long run: It’s why millions of people have children, build houses, plant trees, start businesses, make wills, put up beautiful churches in ordinary villages, fight and if necessary die for your country . . . A nation, a society, a community is a compact between past, present, and future, in which the citizens, in Tom Wolfe’s words at the dawn of the “Me Decade,” “conceive of themselves, however unconsciously, as part of a great biological stream.”

Much of the developed world climbed out of the stream. You don’t need to make material sacrifices: The state takes care of all that. You don’t need to have children. And you certainly don’t need to die for king and country. But a society that has nothing to die for has nothing to live for: It’s no longer a stream, but a stagnant pool….

Read it all.

Detacho: Modular dollhouses for fractured families

And the truly sad thing is, this is not a joke. From Kathy Schiffer via the Digitalnun Daily:

…Detacho families, like so many contemporary American families, can reconfigure themselves, either expanding with the birth of new siblings, or separating into smaller groups of married or divorced or cohabiting adults and their complacent children.  And Detacho dollhouses meet the need—transforming from a single-family home with its smiling parents into two or even three smaller units, able to house new stepparents and step siblings, or two mommies, or to adapt to whatever the parents’ new living situation might be….

Ben Forman [of Ben Forman Design] thinks it’s good to prepare children for the harsh reality of divorce.  With Detacho, children can project their feelings onto the play scene.  They can practice feeling lonely and scared, and waving goodbye to daddy and his new girlfriend.  They can play at getting along with a bossy new big brother who has just moved in.  They can hide from mommy’s new boyfriend, who’s always checking the fridge for another beer.

I now see that the dollhouse I played with as a child was completely inflexible.  With only one mommy and one daddy, one little girl, one little boy, and one baby, my dollhouse family had to learn to get along and to love one another.

And what’s even worse:

Detacho mommies and daddies are sometimes happy, and then they are all kissy-face, attracted to one another.  But sometimes the stress caused by daddy’s extramarital affair makes mommy so angry she’d like to starch his shorts.  Then, with a quick twist of the hairdo, smiling Detacho mommy turns into frowning, unhappy Detacho mommy.  And thanks to the magnets implanted inside their skulls, smiling Detacho mommy and daddy can kiss, but frowning, angry Detacho parents repel one another.