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1. A New School of Thought

By Daniel E. Witte

Civic improvement through implementation of sound public policy takes time. Among other things, it requires research to uncover new ways to understand the world and scholarly discussion to develop new paradigms for proactive problem-solving. It requires that civic leaders and the general public be educated about long-term issues and overarching themes that can otherwise be overlooked amid the din of daily life. It requires confronting issues that few Utah organizations are currently able and willing to countenance.

Over the years, staff and scholars at Sutherland Institute have methodically developed a new school of thought. We have introduced a new way of thinking about both the past and the future of education in Utah. We are pleased to share these ideas not only with scholars in Utah, but also with leading national academics and policy makers who are searching for ways to reverse disturbing trends in American education.

What is the future of pre-K programs in the United States, especially with respect to Head Start? A recently published book, The Pre-K Debates: Current Controversies and Issues (2011), attempts to answer this question by exploring controversies raging in this public policy arena.

The Pre-K Debates is edited by Edward Zigler, Ph.D., Father of Head Start and Director Emeritus of the Edward Zigler Center in Child Development and Social Policy at Yale School of Medicine. The other two editors are Walter S. Gilliam, Ph.D., current director of the Center and Associate Professor of Child Psychiatry and Psychology at Yale School of Medicine; and W. Steven Barnett, Ph.D., co-director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University.

The book includes chapters written by contributors from across the country that concisely discuss for an audience of education policymakers whether pre-K should be targeted or universal; what kind of teacher preparation should be required in terms of credentials and education; when pre-K services should be provided and for how long; where pre-K should be provided; what the primary focus of instruction should be; and how to ensure quality and accountability in pre-K programs.

A summary of the various ideas set forth in the book is provided by Dr. Martha Zaslow in chapter 39. As she explains, “[a] starting premise of this book is that pre-K should be extended.” Indeed, Dr. James J. Heckman, a recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economics, argues in chapter one that rates of return to human capital investment is highest during the early years of development. Many of the contributors favor universal, federally funded pre-K programs for all children from 9 months to 5 years old; teacher credential requirements for those teaching or nurturing young children; use of government schools as a “base” or “hub” for provision of pre-K programs; a “multi-faceted curriculum” with “a focus on social and emotional development”; programs based upon “learning through play”; government “monitoring of quality and assessment of children’s development”; and so on. The book is an excellent synopsis for Utahns who have an interest in education policy and want to know what most national educators prefer for Utah’s children.

The editors also invited me to draft a contribution for the book, which is now included as one of the chapters.1 The ideas presented contrast somewhat with the themes set forth in the other chapters. My contribution discusses the educational ideas of Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin; the need to eliminate compulsory attendance for minors of all ages; the advantages of educational choice and parental liberty; de-federalization of child raising; parent-based education; Flexibility, Accountability, Representation and Modularity as part of the FARM model for education; and the tragic harm to American families and education inflicted by Richard Henry Pratt. Also discussed are three major fault lines between those in the universal compulsory government institution camp (universalists) and in the multivenue choice camp (choicers).

The effort to create an affirmative description of how America’s education system ought to be designed — as opposed to merely critiquing the system as it currently is designed — generated more material and research than could fit in one chapter of a book. Consequently, Sutherland Institute released two 2010 publications2 to expand upon the chapter in The Pre-K Debates.

Most recently, Sutherland Institute released Saving Education and Ourselves 20113. This publication, which focuses on the intersection between education philosophy and policy, updates the original 2003 version by drawing upon the two aforementioned publications and articles as well as law review articles4 that discuss the Parental Liberty Doctrine; the Captive Audience Doctrine; the abuses of Richard Henry Pratt; the unconstitutionality of Platonic governance; and the historical deprivation of educational choice suffered by Native Americans, African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Mennonites, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and other demographic minorities.

Rounding out the collection of extended scholarly publications relating to education and parental liberty is Vouchers, Vows, and Vexations: The Historic Dilemma Over Utah’s Education Identity5. In Vouchers, Paul Mero builds upon the aforementioned concepts and describes in more detail the relationship between historical deprivations imposed upon Utah and the lingering lack of educational choice in the state.

Sutherland Institute expresses gratitude to all those who contribute essential time, energy, and financial resources in support of the effort to build a bright future for Utah. Thanks to you, our collective effort is being heard and is making a difference.

The author, Daniel E. Witte, J.D./M.O.B., is director of Sutherland Institute’s Center for Educational Progress. Mr. Witte has an extensive background in issues related to parental liberty, educational choice, and organizational reform. He has worked with the Utah Supreme Court, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Utah, the 10th and 7th Federal Circuit Courts of Appeal, the U.S. Senate, law firms in Korea, Puerto Rico, and California, and as associate general counsel for an insurance company. 

ENDNOTES

1. Daniel E. Witte, “Applying Choice-Based Multivenue Educational Concepts to Preschool Education,” in The Pre-K Debates: Current Controversies & Issues (2011), eds. Edward Zigler, Walter S. Gilliam, W. Steven Barnett.
2. Fostering Educational Innovation in Choice-based Multi-venue and Government Single-venue Settings and Fostering Innovation in Utah Schools: Common Elements of Educational Success.
3. Saving Education and Ourselves 2011
4. Daniel E. Witte, Comment, People v. Bennett: Analytic Approaches to Recognizing a Fundamental Parental Right Under the Ninth Amendment, 1996 BYU L. REV. 183; Daniel E. Witte, Comment, “Getting a Grip on National Service: Key Organizational Features and Strategic Characteristics of the National Service Corps (AmeriCorps),” 1998 BYU L. Rev. 741; and Daniel E. Witte and Paul Mero, “ Removing Classrooms from the Battlefield: Liberty, Paternalism, and the Redemptive Promise of Educational Choice,” 2008 B.Y.U. L. Rev. 377.
5. Available at http://www.sutherlandinstitute.org/uploaded_files/sdmc/vouchersvows.pdf.

 

2. Free Market Competition Improves Public Education, Too

By Derek Monson

Free market advocates and thinkers argue that market forces and competition motivate businesses and entrepreneurs to innovate and create new goods and services that improve peoples’ lives.

Over time those goods and services become better and often less expensive. For instance, consider how free-market-driven innovation has led to better and in many cases cheaper computers, telephones, cars and home appliances over the years.

More importantly, think about how such free market innovations have improved the lives of almost every Utahn in the state. …

To read the rest of this post on the Sutherland Daily blog, click here.

 

3. Sex and Confusion: Tribune Article Is a Puzzler

By Dave Buer

Selecting tidbits from the School Health Profiles 2010 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The Salt Lake Tribune’s recent article, “Sex and chocolate: Utah kids know a lot about one, not the other,” laments the fact that “Utah schools have nearly barred the topic of safe sex. Utah had the lowest percentage of high schools in which students were taught these points: The efficacy of condoms, the importance of using condoms consistently and correctly, how to obtain condoms and how to use condoms correctly.” The Tribune then explains why: “Utah law forbids the advocacy or encouragement of contraception in public schools.”

The Tribune reporter does not, however, explain what Utah law does encourage with regards to sex education. …

To read the rest of this post on the Sutherland Daily blog, click here.