December 11, 2008

Remember Blagojevich's plan to send every pre-kindergarten baby or child a book every month?

It was in "Freakonomics":
In early 2004, Governor Rod Blagojevich announced a plan to mail one book a month to every child in Illinois from the time they were born until they entered kindergarten. The plan would cost $26 million a year. But, Blagojevich argued, this was a vital intervention in a state where 40 percent of third graders read below their grade level. “When you own [books] and they’re yours,” he said, “and they just come as part of your life, all of that will contribute to a sense … that books should be part of your life."
The book portrayed the plan as a mistake about cause and effect. (The real reason why children with books in their houses do well is that their parents are well-educated.) I note the book's assumption that the reason for the plan was to help kids.

35 comments:

Maguro said...

A contract to send books to kids in Illinois is a fucking valuable thing, you just don't give it away for nothing.

Xmas said...

I'm starting to think that the reason Obama ran for President in the first place was this.

Someone saw him as a bright, rising politician with fantastic potential. They saw Obama and yanked him as hard and fast as possible away from the caustic muck that is Illinois politics.

Really, the only way he can escape the muck is to grab on to the highest branch in the tree.

rhhardin said...

Imus said he's 68 but reads at the level of a 70-year-old.

SteveR said...

you can lead a horse to water

AprilApple said...

BlagoRezkObama.

Michael_H said...

The State of Tennessee has a less fucked-up governor than the State of Illinois.

Dolly Parton created the Imagination Library in 1996 for the children in her home town of Sevierville, Tenn. The program provides a new, age-appropriate, hardcover book every month to children from birth to age five at no cost to the family, regardless of income.

Governor Phil Bredesen expanded the program to cover all counties in Tennessee by establishing the non-partisan, not-for-profit Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation® (GBBF) in 2004 to serve as a resource to Tennesseans establishing and sustaining county Imagination Libraries.

Initially charged with conducting the Imagination Library statewide rollout, raising funds, and training volunteers, Foundation staff now serve Imagination Library organizers by providing fundraising, public relations, and other support.

Tennessee’s statewide Imagination Library provides a new, age-appropriate, hardcover book every month to registered children from birth to age five - at no cost to the family, regardless of income. More than 6.1 million Imagination Library books have been delivered to Tennessee children since October 2004.

Machine politics are not involved. Fuck, no.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

When you own [books] and they’re yours,” he said, “and they just come as part of your life, all of that will contribute to a sense … that books should be part of your life."

Nice thought, but that would only work if the parents were to take some time and read the books with the children. Quality time reading books, discussing the story with your child and making it a fun part of the day.

I'm guessing that if he went forward with this plan the books would have lain discarded and unused by the majority, with the parents who also probably are illiterate totally ignoring the books and their children. Business as usual.

bearbee said...

SteveR said...
you can lead a horse to water

What Dust Bunny said....

If parents don't involve themselves, you can forget it.

Original George said...

World Book Encyclopedia is headquartered in Chicago.

The Wright Group (a division of McGraw-Hill) is a leading publisher of elementary education materials. Though its HQ is in Texas, it creates materials in association with the University of Chicago. It presently has 16 jobs open in its downtown Chicago location.

traditionalguy said...

First rule: it's always for the children. Every fund raiser knows the power of the image /thought of a lonely and abused child to bring in $$. Remember that the Dems. are simply fundraisers for voters who need assistance. [and they expect high salaries and emoluments for their PR skills] But the Professional class and the financially able among us always relate to actually designing true and effective assistance to the child being left behind. Both groups enjoy the game. Only a "literalist" like Joe the aspiring Plumber counts the cost since he believes it is his own money being used. He remembers that oldie but goodie "thou shall not steal" ethic. The rest of the players in the game of government distain Joes's simple ignorance. They are merely using borrowed money for good causes. God bless them all.

Bob W. said...

The book thing isn't the only bad idea that is being foisted upon us this month. . .

EDH said...

Almost a year ago, I won Steve Dubner's Freakonomics blog's "Six Word Motto for the United States Contest" with the submission "Our worst critics prefer to stay."

I wrote it one morning in my underwear.

Since then Dubner has had several major media interviews declaring the winner, without crediting me, including one with the leggy Diane Sawyer.

Me, they offered me a t-shirt, which I haven't claimed yet.

Kids, stay in school.

TMink said...

"The real reason why children with books in their houses do well is that their parents are well-educated."

I do not think that the parents have to be well educated for their children to succeed. I do think that the parents have to value education and see it as a competitive advantage for their children in order for the children to succeed.

Remember when better education was part of the civil rights movement? It seems so quaint and far away now. Now the task seems to be how to address problems in minority communities without mentioning personal responsibility.

Trey

ballyfager said...

I spent most of my life in N.J. I didn't think you could go any lower than Christie Whitman(R) or Jim McGreevey (D).

But this guy Blagojevich is the cat's ass. He retires the trophy. The absolute nadir of political ineptitude.

William said...

Dorothy Parker said that you can lead a whore to culture, but you can't make her think. This seems apropos of Blagojevich's plan. When he speaks of the enrichment that books offer, he doesn't mean books, as such, but rather "the books", the accounting ledgers. I wonder whose brother-in-law would be in charge of this multi million dollar program. And you could expect the wives of many politicians to write edifiying moral fables for the children of a grateful nation.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

I do not think that the parents have to be well educated for their children to succeed. I do think that the parents have to value education and see it as a competitive advantage for their children in order for the children to succeed.

Absolutely. This is why some ethnic groups such as Japanese have high proportions of their children in higher education and why they do so well in school, even when the parents may be first generation immigrants who are not highly educated. The parents and the culture put a high value on education, achievement and responsibility.

This is why racial profiling/affirmative action is not ever going to work as intended. Colleges in California actually select against certain groups (Asians) in favor of others because the first group is over represented in SAT scores and presence as a result of their culture's value on education and achievement. Reverse discrimination.

Original George said...

The book deal actually is not so different from the auto bailout.

In 10 years every school kid will have his own 2 pound netbook.

Today my children stagger off to school looking like they're going to climb Mt. Everest, each carrying about 20 pounds of books on their backs.

Books are over.

Paul Zrimsek said...

Every Blag down in Blagville liked bribery a lot.
But the Fitz, who lived just north of Blagville, did not.

the wolf said...

“When you own [books] and they’re yours,” he said, “and they just come as part of your life, all of that will contribute to a sense … that books should be part of your life."

The same mentality that makes some think that buying a laptop for every sixth-grader will automatically make them better educated.

mariahnotcarey said...

@Dustbunnyqueen:

I work for a non-profit in Madison that supports children in schools in the Dane County area. Through this organization, we coordinate at least 3 different book give-away programs for children and families . The response from parents, children and teachers, regardless of parent-literacy, income, whatever - is that books in the home are great! Even if parents can't read - or perhaps can't read English (although we do distribute bi-lingual books as well) - they can sit with their child, flip through looking at the pictures, and discuss the story. We include activities, which make it easy for parents to learn new ways to interact and discuss the books with their children.

I find it sad that you think "business as usual" regarding parents not wanting to interact with or support their children. In my 5 years working with low-income families, I have yet to find a parent who does not want the best for their child's education and development. Often times, they just don't have the resources to provide a quality home-learning environment - or are too busy working to provide food/shelter for their child.

Thank goodness there are people and communities who are interested in helping them provide quality literature for their children - and lucky for us that in a few years, thanks to a home library and the help of parents AND teachers, children will be that much more able to succeed.

Joe said...

Illinois and Madison, Wisconsin have no public libraries? Who knew?

Pogo said...

" I have yet to find a parent who does not want the best for their child's education and development."
Want the best? Whatever does that mean in real terms? Nothing.
Demanding hard work from your kids is different from wanting the best for them. Too many parents think education is something that can be purchased or bestowed, rather than requiring lots of uncompensated labor.



"Often times, they just don't have the resources to provide a quality home-learning environment."
Horsehockey. Schools were much harder in the Depression when there was far less money around. That statement is completely false.

One famous Illinois resident educated himself with borrowed books, underweight, barefoot, in ill-fitting clothes, reading by firelight on a dirt floor after putting in a full day on the farm. Became President, it's been told.

AJ Lynch said...

I wonder when Blago last read a book?

AJ Lynch said...

The more I think about Blago the more I'd like to see his head bouncing down the steps of the state capitol building while taxpayers watch and cheer.

Does that make me a bad person?

Freeman Hunt said...

I thought we already had a channel for obtaining free books to read. I thought they called it a library. But of course, you don't own those books and therefore they are not thereby imbued with magical, educational powers. Someone should tell that to all of the parents I see checking out bags of books for their kids every week at the library. Obviously, they are wasting their time.

Owning books won't make you read. Reading will make you own books.

Freeman Hunt said...

Does that make me a bad person?

Yes, because you carelessly left out the pike for the eventual display.

Freeman Hunt said...

In my 5 years working with low-income families, I have yet to find a parent who does not want the best for their child's education and development.

And you know that they're really putting out the effort, and not just saying that, because they told you so.

AJ Lynch said...

Freeman:

I would have a raffle and some lucky kid could take Blago's head home and put it next to their books. Heh.

Freeman Hunt said...

Heh. Out loud even.

Joe said...

In my 5 years working with low-income families, I have yet to find a parent who does not want the best for their child's education and development.

Really? So these parents show up at parent-teacher conferences? They sit with their kids to do their homework? They sacrifice money and time for tutors? They make sure their child has a balanced diet? They give up booze and cigarettes?

They may want what's best, but it's all ephemeral--most aren't willing to actually do the work, and make the sacrifices, necessary to ensure the best education.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

In my 5 years working with low-income families, I have yet to find a parent who does not want the best for their child's education and development.

I'm very glad to hear that. I suppose it varies from place to place on how involved the parents are in their children's education and in reading to young children. I support our local non-profit (501c-3) library organization with donations of money and books. Our county decided that we weren't important enough to keep the library branches open in the outlying areas, so we opened our own library. Take that county hacks. We also conduct adult literacy programs at the library which are modestly recieved by the community, mostly by a few adult Hispanics who want to learn English.

However, I can tell you that the parent participation at the school level in this area is abysmal especially in the poorer segments. The attitude is that it is the school's sole responsibility to educate the children and many parents don't see any need to participate or even attend parent teacher conferences. This directly from the mouth of one of my clients who is a teacher at the high school.

Often times, they just don't have the resources to provide a quality home-learning environment - or are too busy working to provide food/shelter for their child

Baloney. Tell that fairy tale to someone else. I was a single mother and was on welfare for a very brief time. My average GROSS income up until when my daughter was in pre school was about $16,000 a year. When she enrolled in Kindergarten, she was reading at a 4th grade level. You don't need resources to provide quality learning environments. Just a book, a light to read by, a chair or couch to snuggle up to your child and time to read books together.....even if it is just for 1/2 hour before bedtime.

Why do people constantly make excuses for the poor or minorities? Can we not hold them to higher standards and responsibilities, lik....oh I don't know the ones we hold for ourselves? Treat them like adults instead of like backward children that must be gently shepherded through life. They are illiterate because they are poor? Their children have no chance to advance because they are poor? They are fat because they are poor? Baloney. True....it is harder when you have less of everything and have to work twice as hard. But it doesn't doom people to a permanent lower class status. Of course, that IS what the liberals want....a permanent underclass of voters.

Smilin' Jack said...

The real reason why children with books in their houses do well is that their parents are well-educated.

The real reason those children do well is that their well-educated parents have high IQs, which their children have inherited. But saying that is very, very naughty.

blake said...

The absolute nadir of political ineptitude.

Dude! You'll jinx it!

blake said...

and lucky for us that in a few years, thanks to a home library and the help of parents AND teachers, children will be that much more able to succeed.

And even luckier, the improvement will always be a few years off, so the plan administrators will always have a job.

Jeremy said...

This American Life (Ack! NPR!) ran a story a couple months back about a non-profit in NYC that ran a reading education program for kids and their families based more or less on a study that indicated that the single greatest predictor of academic success was the quantity and kind of words that the kid was exposed to under 5 years old. Academically successful kids heard a vocabulary of something like 10,000 words, primarily "positive or neutral", whereas unsuccessful ones heard less than a quarter of that and lots more "negative" words. It's a pretty successful program.