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School Can Wait | Parenting ~ Moore Style

School Can Wait

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This is an excerpt (Chapter one) from the book School Can Wait (SCW) written by Raymond and Dorothy Moore

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School Can Wait ecover tiny School Can WaitSynopsis. Changes in the structure of society in the last thirty-five to fifty years have brought about conditions that pose many problems in early childhood, such as reading failure, learning disability, delinquency, and breakdown of family ties. In an attempt to solve these problems legislators have created programs involving much planning at great cost to the nation. Yet the dilemma persists: What factors, present in early childhood, are the common denominators of later accomplishment and satisfying personal development -- leading to a secure, responsible, altruistic adulthood? We believe research will provide some of the answers to these questions.

A brief review of child study in this century shows a progression, beginning with facts only in the early stages, followed by the study of physical and mental growth measures immediately after World War I.  During the depression years of the 1930s studies were made on the effects of socioeconomic deprivation on child development. This concern was followed after World War II by emphasis on personal-social development.

In the late fifties, however, the advent of the space age focused attenti0n upon the cognitive functioning and intellectual development of children.  The assumption was that accelerated intellectual development during childhood would lead to improved quality of performance throughout life.  During the early and middle sixties, social reform produced the early childhood intervention movement for the disadvantaged.  Preschools appeared nationwide, and early schooling for all was often urged.

However, the late sixties and early seventies brought doubts as to the effectiveness of the ECE programs.  Many scholars questioned the wisdom of preschool education for the masses.  Some suggested that the greater emphasis should be on strengthening the family structure and educating parents and future parents in the needs of children and in their adequate care as the means for solving these problems of early childhood.


Fluctuating Programs for Young Children

The current interest in programs for young children is a reflection of major issues in society.  Although widespread agreement dictates that something must be done for the nation's children, much confusion reigns as to what the real issues are.  Meanwhile, early childhood projects and demonstrations have proliferated across the country -- public, private, church-related and commercial.  A few of these appear successful in making healthier, happier children.  But upon closer look the results of most are puzzling.  Gratifying progress has been made, for example, in identifying needs in child health and nutrition.  Yet after spending huge sums of money and tapping the resources of interested people and organizations, many ECE programs seen to have contributed little of lasting benefit to children.

Many perplexing early childhood questions remain.  Changes in the structure of society have often stranded children on islands of insecurity or have driven small children to seek their peers as models in lieu of disinterested or ill-informed parents who should and could have supplied the attachments so badly needed.  The shift of the population toward urban centers, the crowding and poverty of the inner city, a technological society with increased freedom for women, economic circumstances that seem to made it desirable or imperative for mothers to work outside the home, greater social acceptance of the breakup and restructuring of family units -- all these conditions pose problems for early childhood and demand adjustments children cannot make by themselves.

Thus, many of our children need help, some of them deperately.  In an attempt to remedy the situation, concerned researchers and educators have focused attention on almost every imaginable kind of out-of-family care program for the preschool years.  For example, some have urged the need for day care for the child's socializaion; others have stressed academic readiness.  Some have sought to provide a warm, caring atmosphere; and some have supplied little more than custodial care.  Some have hoped to provide freer communication between social classes, while others have been concerned for care with those classes.  A few may have succeeded in bringing the child greater freedom; others have appeared to be confused about their goals.

Some early childhood programs have made it possible for business and professional women to leave their children and pursue their work.  Welfare mothers have also been freed to work, although their earnings have often failed to equal the cost of their children's care at public expense.  This is particularly true when remediation costs are concerned -- for those problems that may have been incurred by institutionalizing these children.  Such programs for young children are supposed to provide antidotes for the negative effects of poverty, ignorance, neglect, and the general inability of indisposition on the part of adults to meet the needs of children.  Unfortunately, scant evidence exits that they have had the expected success.

In view of all this planning and large expenditure of funds, why have so many children in so many early education programs seemed to profit so little?  When children in some programs have made noticeable social and intellectual gains, why have these gains so often tended to disappear after a few years?  These questions lead to an even more basic question:  What factors present in the early childhood years are the common denominators of later accomplishment and satisfying personal development? Research is continually in progress, and all the evidence is not yet in, but certain trends suggest answers to these questions.

Early Childhood as a Field of Study

Understanding early childhood issues requires knowledge of not only current research, theories, and practice but also of the history of early childhood and the principles of child development.  Since basic principles bridge both time and cultures, they can provide a stable perspective for the examination of early childhood findings and theories.

Such principles are provided in part by McLean (458), who reported a brief history of thirty-five years of research in child development, and Anderson (20), who summarized the child development movement.  Their historical data trace the major emphases of child development studies from early in this century.  Anderson noted that a cataloging of facts is typical of the early stages of any life science.  This cataloging of structures, functions, and behaviors of the organism serves to locate problems and develop hypothese for further study.  (See also report of May and Vinovskis [448] in chapter twelve.)

Late in the last century, several psychologists informally observed and cataloged the behavior of their own children, and Edward L. Thordike, Robert S. Woodworth, and Alfred Binet pursued studies of children's learning early in this century.  Yet the main impetus for studying children came after World War I.  New measurement techniques had been developed during the war, and hundreds of psychologists eagerly used them.  People were concerned about the physical and mental defects that had been found in servicemen during the war.  it was a logical time for beginning a systematic and organized investigation of the growth and development of children.

Such studies emerged in a number of universities.  In 1916 Lewis M. Terman at Stanford began following the progress of gifted children.  Bird T. Baldwin initiated measurement of the physical growth of infants and children at the Iowa Child Welfare Research Station in 1917, and Arnold Gesell continued Baldwin's studies at Yale in the early twenties, as did Walter F. Dearborn at Harvard and Frank N. Freeman at Chicago.  Baldwin published a monograph on the mental growth curves of normal and superior children in 1922.

The Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial made available funds for research in child development and parent education in 1926.  As a result, a number of research centers flowered.  These included the Child Welfare Institute at Teachers College, Columbia University (1924), the Yale Psycho-Clinic (1926), the Iowa Child Welfare Research Station (1927), and Institutes of Child Welfare at Minnesota (1925), Toronto (1925), and California (1927).  In these institutes nursery schools were established where children --mostly from two to five years of age -- might be observed and studied.  With the help of other funding sources, still other organizations emerged that were devoted to the study of children, such as the Merrill-Palmer School in Detroit (1920), and the program in Child Development and Family Life at Cornell (1925).

The emphasis in the research was then largely on measurement -- of physical and mental growth curves, of intelligence, language, and social behavior.  Everything that could be measured at that time was measured, and the results were compiled to give fairly accurate descriptions of children at various stages of development.

The economic depression of the late twenties gave rise to a new focus in child study during the thirties.  The effect of socioeconomic status and child care practices on the development of children became of vital interest.  Kur Lewin's field theories of the relation of children to their environment, analyses of the family and of parent behavior, and the effects of deprivation were major trends in ECE studies prior to World War II.  Longitudinal studies from the twenties began yielding scientific data, and child development as a scientific area for investigation became more firmly established.

The research was interrupted by war, but, like World War I, World War II brought still newer measurement techniques.  Whereas the measurements following World War I had focused on relatively concrete and observable variable, these new measurements spawned by a more technologically complex war turned attention to projective techniques and measurements of the less observable aspects of personality.

Thus, during the early fifties a great deal of attention was given to the study of factors contributing to the development of the self.  The self-concept became a basic consideration in human development.  And by the sixties the literature was replete with such theories and ideals.

In the late fifties, with the advent of Russia's Sputnik and the space age, diverse individuals and groups abruptly labeled inadequate the education and achievement of American children.  With a few years interest in personal-social development was subordinated to an almost frantic analysis of cognitive functioning and intellectual achievement.  Whereas going to school and learning had been considered a right and a privilege for all American children, now, in the minds of many educators and policy makers, it became an obligation.

The study and measurement of children for the purpose of discovering how the human organism grows and develops in its various environments was still of interest to some.  But this was overshadowed by the new emphasis on ways and means to induce cognitive and social development at earlier and earlier ages.  The thesis suggested among other things that the more rapidly a child developed, the better would be the quality of that child's performance throughout life.  Many ECE specialists became less and less concerned about what happens to an individual in the normal process of growth and development and more intent on how a society can make happen what it thinks ought to be.

During the summer of 1966 approximately that number of children again attended Head Start programs, and 171,000 enrolled for full-year programs (531).  Head Start was described by some enthusiasts as "the country's biggest peacetime mobilization of human resources and effort" (113).  But by 1967 investigators of Head Start programs began to question its lasting effects.  Time and again head Start evaluators reported that large gains in achievement were made during the preschool year, but these gains were not maintained when the children entered the public school system.  They believed a follow-through program was needed to insure the benefits of Head Start were carried into the primary grades.

In 1969 Head Start was moved from the Office of Economic Opportunity into the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.  The Office of Child Devolopment was created, and Dr. Edward Zigler of the Child Study Center at Yale University became its director.  it also included children and family programs.  In the spring of 1970 President Nixon declared that most compensatory programs had not helped poor children catch up.  He announced the Early Learning Program that was planned as a strong experimental base for building new day-care programs.

The controversy over Head Start culminated in the Westinghouse Report (153,291), which evaluated 104 Head Start centers across the country and concluded that summer Head Start programs were ineffective.  Year-round programs were recommended.  For programs to be effective, they should extend downward to infancy and upward into the primary grades.  Parents should be taught to teach their own children, and more attention should be given to language development.  Some Head Start centers should be purely experimental.

The Westinghouse Report was severely criticized by many social scientists and statistical experts.  Nevertheless, the White House approved it, and the news media largely interpreted it as indicating the failure of Head Start.  Yet it could also be deduced that Head Start had brought some unexpected blessings. Among these was the frequently observed effect of making parents more constructively aware of their children and the privileges and rewards of responsible parenthood.

However, unrealistic expectations as to what Head Start could accomplish prevented objective interpretation of its effectiveness and caused disappointment at the "failure" of the project.  While Head Start did not appear to produce lasting cognitive and affective gains, observers generally agreed on its health and nutritional benefits.  Head Start is still under question by many, but extensions such as Follow Through are rising in public interest. (See more on Head Start in chapter twelve).

Head Start appeared to be flexible and adaptable to individual situations and communities.  Indeed, as many different philosophies existed as communities and programs.  Broad differences existed in curricula and techniques; methods of handling children, equipment, materials, supplies; facilities, professional staff training, salaries, age of children, recruitment and screening processes of children, community variables, and racial balance.  Some areas of agreement were apparent:  "the aim to break the poverty cycle; similarity in class sizes (fifteen to twenty children), and paid personnel (two to four staff members), plus unpaid personnel; and the belief that children under six years of age can be educated.  Educators also agreed on the need for speech and language training.

Follow Through was started as a pilot venture in the fall of 1967.  It was designed to extend Head Start services from preschool into the primary grades.  It was to be a comprehensive program that would provide for the education, emotional, physical, medical, dental, and nutritional needs of primary grade children who had previously received the same services in Head Start.  Parent participation was to be an integral part of the program.  Follow Through became an experimental program.  It undertook a strategy of planned variation to assess the effectiveness of many different ways of working with poor children and the families in many different cultural and environmental situations throughout America.

In conjunction with Follow Through, the Head Start Planned Variation Study was conducted in 1969 (87).  Eight preschool models were selected to participate in the study:

1.  The pragmatic action-oriented model, sponsored by the Education Development Center in Newton, Massachusetts.

2.  The academically oriented preschool model, sponsored by Wesley Becker and Siegfried Engelmann of the University of Oregon.

3.  The behavior analysis model, developed and sponsored by Don Bushnell of the University of Kansas.

4.  The Bank Street College model, developed and sponsored by the Bank Street College of Education in new York City.

5.  The Florida parent-educator model, developed and sponsored by Ira Gordon of the University of Florida.

6.  The Tucson early-education model, originally designed by Marie Hughes and sponsored by Joseph Fillerup of the University of Arizona.

7.  The responsive model, designed and sponsored by Glen Nimnicht of the Far West Laboratory for Educational Research and Development.

8.  The cognitive model, developed and sponsored by David Weikert of the High Scope Educational Research Foundation.

During the 1970-71 school year, the Stanford Research Institute undertook the first national evaluation of Planned Variation in Follow Through (87).  Fourteen different approaches were classified into five groups, based on their major emphasis in working with poor children and their families:

1.  The structured academic approaches of (a) Don Bushnell, (b) Lauren Resnick and Warren Shepler, (c) Juan Lujan, (d) Charles Smock and (e) Siegfried Engelmann and Wesley Becker.

2.  The discovery approaches of (a) the Banks Street College model, (b) the Education Development Center model and (c) the responsive environment model.

3.  The cognitive discovery approaches of (a) David Weikert, (b) Ira Gordon, (c) Dan Wolfe, and (d) Joseph Fillerup.

4.  The self-sponsored approaches of local school district staff.

5.  Parent-implemented approaches in which there were high levels of parent participation.

Researchers planned to include a further six approaches in the continuing study, which would bring the total up to twenty.

Although the results from the Head Start and Follow Through Planned Variation studies were highly tentative, they provided important future directions for research on the relationships between school experiences and the growth of young children (87).

In February 1971 five leading pioneers in the development and evaluation of approaches to the education of disadvantaged preschool children presented papers at the first annual Hyman Blumberg Symposium on Research in Early Childhood Education (649).  The symposium was held at Johns Hopkins University.  The Experts were (a) Carl Bereiter -- The Academic Preschool, (b) David Weikert -- Curriculum, Teaching, and Learning in Preschool Education, (c) Oralie McAfee -- An Integrated Approach to Early Childhood Education, (d) Todd Risley -- Spontaneous Language and the Preschool Environment, and (e) Marion Blank -- The Treatment of Personality Variables in a Preschool Cognitive Environment.

In April 1972 six leading researchers in the development of evaluation of approaches to the education of disadvantaged children presented papers at the second annual Hyman Blumberg Symposium (650).  On this occasion the experts were (a) Samuel Ball and Gerry Ann Bogatz -- Sesame Street, (b) Irving E. Sigel, Ada Secrist, and George Forman -- Psychoeducational Intervention Beginning at Age Two, (c) Joan S. Bissell -- Planned Variation in Head Start and Follow Through, (d) Merle B. Karnes -- Research with Young Handicapped and Low-Income Children, (e) Virginia C. Shipman -- Disadvantaged Children Educational Compensation and Evaluation: A Critique.

In his critique of the two Hyman Blumberg Symposium editor Julian C. Stanley (650) offered his personal opinion that

from the careful research of Carl Bereiter (1972), Gray and Klaus Weikart (1972), and others [we find] that great expenditures of time and effort have not yet succeeded in permanently elevating IQ's of disadvantaged children much.  Large gains the first year are common, but tend not to persist through the primary grades (pp. 7,8).

Johns Hopkins psychologist Stanley (650) commented further on the symposiums:

Surely one learns from reading this volume and its predecessor that there are severe limits to the effectiveness of current preschool intervention efforts.  Also, its cost is probably far higher per child than more effective teaching in the greatly restructured school system should be (pp. 9,10).

In fact, Glen Nimnicht, at one time a chief psychologist and leading proponent of Head Start, became convinced he should turn in other directions. He suggested that, for a young child, twenty or thirty minutes daily on a mother's lap reading and playing with her was more profitable than several hours of nursery school (515).

In 1972, while still on the staff of the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, Joan Bissell (87) presented a paper at the Second Hyman Blumberg Symposium.  One of her conclusions was that

the Head Start and Follow Through Planned Variation studies provided preliminary information about the variety of educational experiences available to young children ....This information was a first step in the development of  a 'menu of alternatives' from which communities and parents can choose what best fits the needs of their children. (pp. 105, 104).

On the other hand, Bissell admitted that the findings were inconclusive.  A few Head Start programs and experimental preschools seemed to be effective in producing relatively large and lasting cognitive gains in low-income children.  Nevertheless, the majority of Head Start and other compensatory preschool programs had not produced lasting increases in the intellectual development of little children.

She described the dilemma of early childhood:

The current situation regarding knowledge of the effects of preschool programs is problematic.  On the one hand, little conclusive information exists about the total range of the effects of programs or the processes which underlie these effects.  On the other hand, the federal government's involvement in education and child care programs for preschool children continues, as does the interests of state and local governments, industries, and groups of parents (p. 65).

Many pointed to the examples of European countries, such as Britain, Denmark, France, Germany, Sweden, and Switzerland, which had led in the preschool movement.  Several states considered legislation for making early schooling available to all children down to age three or four and California went so far as to propose that by the age of eight all children should have mastered the basic tools of learning in reading, oral and written language, and arithmetic (140).

It was not a simple matter to sort out the many facets of the situation.  Proponents stamped for the traditional school view point -- to build a "solid foundation" and later learning will be more easily acquired.  Others were concerned with social action policies and the economics of welfare.  Employed and "liberated" women lobbied for child-care programs, and teachers' federations were concerned as teaching jobs dwindled with a declining child population.

Legislative proposals became stop-gap measures.  Political considerations became overpowering.  The child's overall needs seldom were clearly defined, although general agreement existed that families as well as children needed counsel and other assistance.  The major focus generally centered on remedy rather than prevention -- what to do with families and children in a damaged society rather than seek the real cause of damage.

Then a series of thought-provoking articles appeared from such scholars and researchers as Urie Bronfenbrenner (118, 119), David Elkind (216, 217), Raymond Moore (495, 496), Meredith Robinson (571), William Rohwer (574, 575), Earl Schaefer (595, 596, 599), Burton White (717, 718), Sheldon White (721, 722, 723), and Ed Zigler (754, 755).  The conclusions of these scholars were reached independently, but they expressed a similar concern.  They questioned the wisdom of early preschool education for the masses of children, particularly in terms of academic orientation or readiness programs.  Some suggested that rather than removing children further from an already weakened family structure, the efforts of society might well focus on strengthening families and educating parents to provide adequate care for their children.

And it has since become clear that many parents concurred by instinct and in fact but with a variety of outcomes that point up the confusion reigning in policy circles.  In California's Napa County, for example, the Larry Williams family kept their seven-year-old home in the face of laws requiring school entrance at age six.  The district attorney determined that the state would likely lose the case at the trial level and if it won would probably lose on appeal.  He asked the judge to dismiss the case.

In Queen's New York when Barbara Franz, a widow, took her six-year-old Johnny out of school because he was becoming frustrated and nervous, she was hailed into court and convicted.  Her crime was her attempt to provide family care for an immature child.

In northern Michigan, in a highly similar case, the district attorney and judge decided that the court was not a "proper forum" to determine if the Larry O'Guins should be held accountable for keeping their six-year-old boy out of school.  The case was thrown out of court.

In southwestern Michigan Judy Waddell was warned by her neighbors and the school authorities about keeping her seven-year-old out of school.  he was enuretic day and night; he was only five years old physiologically, according to the family pediatrician who adivsed that he be kept home.  Because Mrs. Waddell agreed with her physician and other child specialists and wanted the best for her son, she stayed home with him.  For this "crime" she was arrested and reluctantly jailed by the county sheriffs on the demand of the local public schools.  As this book goes to press, she has been on trial for nearly three years as a patient judge tries to unravel the developmental needs of a child from the vested interests and politics of rigid laws requiring the ever-earlier institutionalizing of little children.

In Fallbrook, California, Dick and marjorie Schaeffer were disturbed at the attitudes and habits their young children were developing in a nearby parochial school.  They explained their concern to the local public school principal, who understood their dilemma and arranged for them to care for their children at home under the general guidance of a credentialed teacher with whom Mrs. Schaeffer conferred every two or three weeks.

They were at war with the law -- with the legislators, who were influenced by, among other, educators, labor unions, and the women's liberation movement.  These parents were charged as lawbreakers for doing what they thought was best for their children.  Everyone offered either religious or scientific reasons, or both, in addition to their affection and concern for their children.  Some school authorities were understanding, some vindictive.

Parents and their little children are in trouble.  The inconsistency both within and among the states leaves parents confused.  Sometime the family is pushed aside through the demands of the law.  Sometimes it is sustained.  And ironically, a recent Stanford study of school entrance laws shows that no state with laws requiring five- or six-year-old school entrance has based early entrance requirements on facts derived from systematic research (238).  The essential pressures come primarily from vested interests and conventional practices.

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