Reconceptualizing Prosperity and Early Childhood Education

3 Nov 2014

Kevin McClain, President
North Carolinians for Home Education
​Nov 3, 2014

In an address made on Oct 31, 2014, at Rhode Island College in Providence, President Obama advocated for increased enrollment in early child education programs. According to his remarks, which focused on issues regarding workforce gender equality, too many adults are compelled to leave the workforce and become “stay at home” parents because their children lack access to high quality preschool. The phenomena of two-income families and the “stay at home” parent, however, is far more complex and requires a much more broad discussion of education and labor policies. Policies which uncritically expand childcare and schooling expenditures fail citizens by not taking into account the real benefits of home-based, parent-directed care and implications for the labor market.

A full transcript of the President's remarks is available on the White House website:

Remarks by the President on Women and the Economy -- Providence, RI

As part of his remarks, President Obama called for an increase of enrollment of 6 million children in what he labeled “high quality preschool”, saying that preschool is “good for families” and “good for children.” According to the President's remarks, children enrolled in high-quality preschool “will do better.”

“So let’s make this happen.  By the end of this decade, let’s enroll 6 million children in high-quality preschool, and let’s make sure that we are making America stronger.  That is good for families; it’s also good for the children, because we know investing in high-quality early childhood education makes all the difference in the world, and those kids will do better.”

President Obama's remarks concerning the benefits of preschool followed a statement in which he empathized with families who feel it necessary for one member, most often a woman, to leave the labor force in order to “stay at home.” A decision to temporarily leave the labor force has a long-term impact on a person's earning potential:

“... too often, parents have no choice but to put their kids in cheaper daycare that maybe doesn’t have the kinds of programming that makes a big difference in a child’s development.  And sometimes there may just not be any slots, or the best programs may be too far away.  And sometimes, someone, usually mom, leaves the workplace to stay home with the kids, which then leaves her earning a lower wage for the rest of her life as a result.  And that’s not a choice we want Americans to make.”

Like the President, North Carolinians want “America to be stronger.” This requires engaging the wide range of evidence concerning early childhood education. Researchers have provided significant scientific evidence challenging claims that formal early childhood education provides any lasting cognitive, psychological, or social benefit. In contrast, research indicates that early exposure to more structured educational programs can have negative effect on later learning and relationships. In 1975, Dr Raymond S. Moore and Dorothy Moore published “Better Late Than Early” and cited over 3000 scientific publications which challenged the claims made by early childhood education advocates. 

Dr. Moore resigned from a job in the Department of Education over what he deemed to be politically-motivated rather than scientifically-backed arguments for policies advocating for preschool expansion. The advocacy of the Moores, and others like them, launched the modern homeschool movement. For over thirty years North Carolinians for Home Education (NCHE) has advocated for education policies which acknowledge the benefits to society of home-based education and eschew an uncritical embrace of daycare and early schooling. Researchers today continue to provide evidence which challenges the educational theories which resulted in our modern institutions and policies of daycare and k-12 schooling. While statistics for the numbers of preschool age children in homeschools are lacking, it is estimated that over 100,000 children in North Carolina are educated at home and in 2013 more North Carolinians choose to homeschool their children rather than enroll them in private schools.

The modern homeschool movement developed as a direct result of educational policies which devalued the contributions families make to society and the value of home-based learning. North Carolinians for Home Education encourages policy-makers in North Carolina and beyond to examine the evidence supporting the rejection of early childhood programs and modern schooling and better understand the motivation behind many parents who “stay at home.”

North Carolinians for Home Education shares with the President and policy-makers concern regarding the value of women's labor in the market. Stated simply: equal work deserves equal compensation. However, we implore elected leaders and pundits to broaden civic discourse about the ramifications of labor, family and educational policies. Recognizing the value of providing a stable environment for the next generation of American citizens should be part of any discussion concerning education and labor. Research and experience provides ample evidence that a stable home environment facilitates strong interpersonal relationships yielding significant gains in emotional and cognitive growth and social development. As such, parents who “stay at home” and families that choose to embrace a single-income lifestyle contribute greatly to the prosperity of our society. 

The American public needs leaders who can speak to a more robust concept of prosperity and statecraft that reflects the reality that adults are more than simply laborers, and children need far more than simply more schooling. Americans need more discussion of what it means and what it takes to develop healthy future generations.


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