Jewish World Review Jan. 27, 2003 / 24 Shevat, 5763

Joanne Jacobs

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Consumer Reports

Head Start, Social Studies, Marx, Africa and Math | Does Head Start actually give poor children a head start in school? We don't know. Each local program evaluates itself based on its own criteria, often favoring social and emotional development over school readiness. Long-term follow-ups show no lasting benefit from Head Start.

The Bush administration is going to evaluate 4-year-olds in Head Start to see if they're learning language skills, which they'll need to develop reading skills. The data will let federal officials evaluate the effectiveness of local Head Start programs.

Here's a shock. Head Start directors hate the idea, reports The Washington Post. The experts claim it's impossible to test young children — or to teach pre-literacy skills to poor kids.

Last year, the administration began the early-childhood initiative by promoting literacy seminars for local Head Start officials, many of whom said they were pressured to learn and use techniques that they didn't want or need.

Critics say promoting literacy over other services that develop a child's social and emotional well-being is counterproductive because Head Start children are unable to focus on learning their ABC's if they are burdened by other troubles.

I think anybody who thinks their students can't improve their language skills in a year of pre-school should get out of the pre-school business.

Head Start serves children from very low-income families. If these kids can't learn till their family problems are solved, we might as well write them off from the start. Don't bother with Head Start. Don't bother sending them to school. They're always going to be burdened by other troubles. And they'll grow up to be a troublesome burden to others if teachers don't teach them the skills that other kids learn at home.

Some local directors, who asked not to be identified, said they feared that federal officials would use data from the new system to eliminate programs that don't do what they want.

God forbid that the federal government stops funding a program that doesn't do what it's supposed to do. What a horror!

The End of Social Studies?

Historians are struggling with social studies teachers over control of school curriculum, reports Education Week. And the historians seem to be winning.

"Everyone pays lip service to history, but the content has largely been ignored," said Theodore K. Rabb, a history professor at Princeton University and a founder of the National Council for History Education, based in Westlake, Ohio. Social studies proponents, he said, "have become about process, and we're about content. The way the curriculum has evolved, we learn about Indian cooking one week and Chinese cooking the next."

Education Week credits a Weekly Standard article, Anti-Social Studies with influencing the debate. In response, the National Council for the Social Studies has mounted a public relations campaign to sell the idea that social studies "creates effective citizens."

Berkeley Professor Disses Marxism!

Pretty much by accident, Mean Mr. Mustard ended up in a Berkeley political science class on Marxism and Fascism in the Far East. To his shock, the professor doesn't think Marxism is "errant humanism." Here's a quote from the course description:

In effect, the course will not be conducted in a politically correct manner — which means that some students may find the treatment offensive. If you are among those who cannot tolerate alternative opinion, who feel that any departure from the prevailing folk-wisdom of Ethnic Studies or left-wing posturing is objectionable — do not take this course.

This . . . is a course predicated on the conviction that students have not been trained to think coherently, rationally and empirically about the modern world. It conveys non-standard opinions, which you are not required to accept, but with which you must deal.

Political Science Professor A. James Gregor warns prospective students that the class may create "intrapsychic tensions among those who are irretrievably leftist."

Yes, this is Berkeley, California.

Poor Africans Choose Private Schools

In Africa and India, private schools are booming in villages and city slums, writes James Tooley in The Spectator. Poor parents scrape up the money for tuition, knowing private schoolmasters will show up every day and teach. The government system isn't accountable to anyone.


Hate math? Then skip it — with a note from the doctor. An Italian girl with mathphobia was allowed to pass to her senior year in high school, despite flunking math. The student does well in other subjects, and has no career plans that involve math or science. USA Today reports:

Her lawyers said she suffers from an "irreversible psychological pathology" — basically, math phobia — a condition the court said made it impossible for her to successfully study and master the subject.

Well, if Italian schools think understanding math isn't necessary for students who don't like it, fine. Make it optional. Otherwise, expect an epidemic of mathphobia.

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JWR contributor Joanne Jacobs, a former Knight-Ridder columnist and San Jose Mercury News editorial writer, blogs daily at She is currently finishing a book, Start-Up High, about a San Jose charter school. Comment by clicking here.

01/22/03: Teachers as targets
01/13/03: Big Bully's Feelings
01/06/03: School of 60's Whining and Communal Destruction
12/23/02: Teaching in
12/16/02: Chocolate city?
12/10/02: Mandatory Victimhood --- and when cleaning up a school is 'racist'
11/25/02: Multi-colored math, sensitive science
11/20/02: How to leave no child behind
11/18/02: The tummy track
11/11/02: Dysfunctional documents?
11/04/02: Why go to college? Why test schools?
10/28/02: Pride goeth before an F
10/21/02: Diversity adversity
10/14/02: Bad hat day
10/07/02: Inflated sense of worth
09/30/02: The Royal road to knowledge
09/24/02: Sierra's Club
09/20/02: Stupidity Watch
09/03/02: First, win the war
08/26/02: Out of their field, out of their minds?
08/20/02: Fun with failure

© 2002, Joanne Jacobs