Last week, the California congresswoman hit five cities in five days, barnstorming for money to try to win the 25 more seats it would take to regain control. And if that happens — or when, according to her — at the top of her to-do list, she says, will be “doing for child care what we did for health-care reform” — pushing comprehensive change.
There’s a bit of symmetry to that: Amid allegations that he has been disrespectful to women, Cain refers to the highest-ranking female official in U.S. history as a princess. And when Pelosi takes a shot based on gender, she’s not afraid to mention that next on her agenda is the mother of all women’s issues: child care. Under fire for health-care legislation that conservatives consider a big-government power grab, she’s happy to promise more of the same.
Of the need for child-care legislation, she says, “I could never get a babysitter — have five kids in six years and no one wants to come to your house. . . . And everywhere I go, women say the same thing” about how hard it is to find the kind of reliable care that would make their family lives calmer and work lives more productive. When it comes to “unleashing women” in a way that would boost the economy, she says, “this is a missing link.”
Congress did pass such a bill, in 1971, but President Richard M. Nixon vetoed it because he thought it would undermine families and force them to put children in government-run centers.
“One of the great pieces of unfinished business is high-quality child care; I wonder why we just can’t do that,’’ Pelosi said. Her spokesman Drew Hammill said later that she doesn’t have a specific child-care proposal at the ready; that’s what the legislative process is for. But the Nixon-era legislation of which she spoke approvingly subsidized child care for low-income parents and was available to anyone who wanted to pay for it. “She sees this as the next big problem to tackle,’’ Hammill said.
Before I say anything else, let me point out that 5 children in 6 years is not recommended.
In the past decades, middle class parents tried to build a better and smarter baby. Quite a few early childhood education gimmicks came to pass — baby flashcards, red white and black mobiles, Mozart for your gestating baby Einstein. Experts, however, warned that while the activities are not known to have any positive long-term effect, some can backfire. What babies and toddlers need is one-on-one attention that the great majority of mothers seems to be hardwired to give: lots of hugs and motheresse.
One of my favorite books on the topic is The Myth of the First Three Years by neuropsychiatrist John T. Bruer. Bruer explained that contrary to popular misconception, early childhood education does not predetermine future intellectual achievement. Bruer also showed that politicians on both sides of the isle like to play into these popular misconceptions and legislate all sorts of interventions from mandating Mozart tapes in hospital nurseries to Head Start.
These policies are not based in science and are not justified by follow up research. Notoriously Head Start doesn’t yield substantial long term gains. The reason the federal government should not be involved in daycare is because centralized nurture factories will be affected not by the needs of children but by what is politically expedient.
I’m certain that federal daycare would put lots of giddy thoughts into the tots’ brains — how we all need to love each other and yada-yada-yada. In the spirit of multiculturalism they’d teach kids to be bi-lingual in Spanish. Unfortunately, our other languages are Russian and Hebrew, and I prefer to start them in infancy and keep up in pre-school years. It’s up to me and my synagogue, not the federal government, to pass our heritage to the kids. Since I am the one ultimately responsible for my children’s moral and intellectual development, I’d like the choice to teach them myself and, if needed, I’d like to pick a private pre-school of my choosing too.
Speaking of which, my oldest attends pre-school. Part time daycare around San Francisco starts at about $250 a month, which doesn’t feel too terribly burdensome. And sure it would be nice to have that very same daycare center provide the very same services free, but as any libertarian (or is it feminist?) knows, there is no such thing as a free lunch, even if it’s served by a loving teacher. It’s possible that if federal government takes over pre-schools, the quality of daycare will deteriorate. Federal daycare might become the only option for the overtaxed families trying to make ends meet, and this situation is still preferable to passing the nursery bill to the tots.
I can see Dr. Laura shaking her head at the idea of federal pre-schools. She is not alone. According to a 2003 Pew poll, 72% of Americans agreed with the statement that too many children are being raised in daycare centers. This number rose slightly since Pew started asking the question in 1987. As I mentioned earlier, mothers in my liberal neck of the woods either stay home or wish they could. A few days ago, an occupy troll stopped and made a fabulous comment that “[Occupy kids] are our future while yours are at a day care shooting people on video games.” I don’t know what demographic is expected to lend support for Mrs. Pelosi’s proposal.
A better solution for working families is a strong economy where any father can find employment enabling his wife to spend time with young children. 2012 is promising to be an interesting election, mommy wars-wise.