Monthly Archives: September 2008

I Kinda, Sorta Agree With One of My Critics

I recently wrote a column for a publication in which I reiterated my position on day-care, and one of my comments was: “Tearing children away from their homes and families [for day care] is somewhere between sinister and cruel.” A reader of the column wrote a letter-to-the-editor taking exception to my comment and countering with:  “…there are many benefits to day care, including health screenings, nutritious meals, socialization and active play away from the TV.”

Could not agree with her more!  Where mothers and fathers can’t or won’t provide their children with food, medical care, friends in the park, and attention and play, being shunted over to an institutionalized setting may definitely be a godsend!

I’m still waiting, however, for the proof that children do better or equal in day-care than with a loving, attentive, involved mommy or daddy.

Academic Problems Occur More Often in Step-Families

While it should come as no surprise that psychological, social and academic functioning are impacted negatively by children raised in family chaos, or in situations of profound change and stress, Dr. Kathryn Harker Tillman from Florida State University reports that, on average, adolescents living with half- or step-siblings have lower grades and more school-related behavior problems, and these problems may not improve over time.

“These findings imply that family formation patterns that bring together children who have different sets of biological parents may not be in the best interests of the children involved.  Yet half of all American step-families include children from previous relationships of both partners, and the majority of parents in step-families go on to have additional children together. (“Non-traditional” Siblngs and the Academic Outcomes of Adolescents, Social Science Research, 37(1)

Army Prep School

As more young males drop out of high school — aimless, and getting into all sorts of trouble – the Army has come up with a plan that solves problems for the youth, as well as for the military:  prep school.

“It’s academic immersion,” explained Col. Jeffrey Sanderson, chief of staff at Fort Jackson, home of the Army’s largest basic training school.  “Our studies show that with only 3 out of 10 people of military age being capable of joining the Army, we are going to have to do something different.” (Associated Press, 8/27/08)

The Army turned six World War II-era buildings at the base into a mini-campus of Spartan classrooms and barracks.  Classes of about 60 soldiers will enter the month-long program every week. 

Their day begins at 5 AM with physical training, eight hours of academic review classes, and homework each night.  It’s a tough and structured day.  Grouped three to four to a class, the students work on GED preparation books.

Recruits must score in the top half of the Army’s aptitude test to qualify for the prep school and they get two tries at a GED certificate.  If they don’t pass on the second try, the Army releases them from their contract.

The Army prefers those who graduate from high school on their own, as it demonstrates tenacity, but that some young men might have quit high school for a wide variety of reasons is a consideration.  “These kids may have quit at some point, but the big thing is, a lot of people have quit on them.  We are not going to allow them to quit,” commented the school’s commander, Captain Brian Gaddis.

Sarah Palin and Motherhood

I am extremely disappointed in the choice of Sarah Palin as the Vice Presidential candidate of the Republican Party.  I will still vote for Senator McCain, because I am very concerned about having a fundamental leftist, especially one who is a marvelous orator, as President.

At first, I thought it amusing that McCain picked a pretty, smart, and tough female to counter the racist/sexist accusations going back and forth between parties.  I remember how Oprah Winfrey got caught in the cross-fire as she stepped up to the political table to support Obama with pride that a black man could rise to such heights in the USA, only to get slammed by feminists who told her it was gender, not race, that she should back.  Understandably, Ms. Winfrey pulled back from it all.

Forget gender and race.  I’m frankly and sadly caught in the dilemma of having to balance policy versus example in touting a candidate for the office of the First Family.  I was ferociously attacked (what’s new?) when I spoke out strongly against Bill Clinton’s dalliances in the Oval Office.  That situation quickly turned into a debate whether “private has anything to do with public.”  Nonsense.  Role models are very important.  Children and young adults look to those who are visible and successful as a road map of what is acceptable behavior and emulate those actions over the morals and values their parents and churches have taught and tried to reinforce.  It’s a tough go these days, when the “bad that men or women do” is used for entertainment purposes without judgment, or is excused because of political or financial considerations.

I’m stunned – couldn’t the Republican Party find one competent female with adult children to run for Vice President with McCain?   I realize his advisors probably didn’t want a “mature” woman, as the Democrats keep harping on his age.  But really, what kind of role model is a woman whose fifth child was recently born with a serious issue, Down Syndrome, and then goes back to the job of Governor within days of the birth?

I am haunted by the family pictures of the Palins during political photo-ops, showing the eldest daughter, now pregnant with her own child, cuddling the family’s newborn.  When Mom and Dad both work full-time (no matter how many folks get involved with the children), it becomes a somewhat chaotic situation.  Certainly, if a child becomes ill and is rushed to the hospital, and you’re on the hotline with both Israel and Iran as nuclear tempers are flaring, where’s your attention going to be?  Where should your attention be?  Well, once you put your hand on the Bible and make that oath, your attention has to be with the government of the United States of America.

I am positively moved that neither Sarah nor her daughter were willing to terminate the lives of their unborn children.  This is in sharp contrast to Obama’s statement that “When it comes specifically to HIV/AIDS, the most important prevention is education, which should include…which should include abstinence education and teaching children…teaching children, you know, that sex is not something casual.  But it should also include – it should also include other, you know, information about contraception, because, look, I’ve got two daughters, 9 years old and 6 years old.  I am going to teach them first of all about values and morals.  But if they make a mistake, I don’t want them punished with a baby.” (March, 2008)

So, one Vice Presidential candidate and her daughter demonstrate, under conditions of great stress, that babies are valued human beings, not punishment.  However, that same VP candidate came forth in April of 2008 with a proclamation for “Family Child Care Week,” in which she wrote: “These professionals are positive role models for the children they care for and the communities they serve.”  Clearly, Palin sees the need for positive role models.  I suggest that they be Mommy and Daddy, and not the hired help.

Child-care facilities are a necessity when mothers and fathers (when they exist at all) are unwilling or incapable of caring for their offspring.  Unfortunately, they have become a mainstay of the feminista mentality that nothing should stand in the way of a woman’s ambition – nothing, including her family.

Any full-time working wife and mother knows that the family takes the short end of the stick.  Marriages and the welfare of children suffer when a stressed-out mother doesn’t have time to be a woman, a wife, and a hands-on Mommy.

Stem Cells Without Embryonic Death

Anybody who knows anything knows that stem cells are useful tools in the treatment of certain specific diseases.  Anybody who knows anything also knows that the argument about using embryonic stem cells is an argument that doesn’t have to happen.

Stem cells are found in a wide variety of places, including body fat, umbilical cord blood, and now, Japanese scientists report that they have derived stem cells from….wisdom teeth!

Researchers at the government-backed National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology said they created stem cells of the type found in human embryos using the removed wisdom teeth of a 10 year old girl.

Stem cells, which can develop into various organs or nerves, are seen as having the potential to save lives by helping find cures for diseases such as cancer, diabetes, Parkinson’s, and many others.  People who give up their wisdom teeth in their youth could use the stem cells later in life if they need treatment.

Japan is the largest spender on scientific research after the United States.  In December, they announced a $92 million plan to advance stem cell research over five years.

Preschool Bad for Children

One of the main issues for the Democrats is their passion for getting children into preschools.  Democratic Presidential candidate Obama says he believes in universal preschool, and that he’d pump billions of dollars into early childhood education, promising improved academic performance.

Sadly, the past 50 years have seen a huge increase in families who put kids in pre-school:  from 16% to 70%!  In addition to being separated from parents way too early, the problem is that fourth-grade reading, science, and math scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) haven’t gone up since the early 1970′s.  Hmmm.

For decades, I’ve read the studies about Head Start.  Those studies indicate an immediate gain on IQ tests and other cognitive measures, but show that in later years, those scores become indistinguishable from non-Head Start kids.

Why the heck is there such determination to take small children away from their homes and mothers, and put them in an institutionalized setting, which does not add to their lives, but actually subtracts from them?  A 2005 study from Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley (neither of which is known as a conservative institution) found that kindergartners with 15 or more hours of preschool every week were less motivated and more aggressive in class than other kids.

In Canada, the C.D. Howe Institute found a higher incidence of anxiety, hyperactivity, and poor social skills among kids in Quebec after the introduction of universal preschool. 

As you might imagine, the only preschool programs that seem to do more good than harm are targeted at children who come from extremely poor families (often those with neglectful and/or addicted parents).  Even so, the return (adult crime, earnings, wealth and welfare dependence) were much smaller (16 cents for every dollar spent) than Obama’s notion of a $10 return.  Universal preschool programs in Oklahoma, Georgia and Tennessee (2006, Education Week  analysis) find no statistical difference in the performance of preschool and non-preschool students on any subject after the first grade.

Enough with the government intruding on parents’ abilities to make educational choices for their children by guilt or mandate, without any substantiation that there is a positive benefit.  Common sense should tell you that small children are best served by a loving mommy.

The reality is that the overwhelming majority of children come from loving homes with attentive parents.  Tearing children away from their homes and families for government-run, institutionalized learning programs that demonstrate absolutely no concrete benefit to the children is somewhere between sinister and cruel.

By the way, Obama’s daughters go to a private school whose annual fee in middle school runs around $20,000.