Universal Pre-K Is a Bad Idea

Here is why universal pre-K is a very bad idea.

The whole point of pre-K is to facilitate women being in the workplace, right? Workplace can mean two things. One is a career and another one is a job. The difference is that a job is something you can leave for 3, 4, 5 years and then go back. If you are a cashier at a supermarket and you leave the job when you have a kid, you can go back to being a cashier several years later. But if you have a career, there’s nothing to go back to.

The only reason I put Klara in daycare at six months is that the alternative was to abandon my career forever. That was absolutely the only reason. And it was very, very hard to do. (If you have no problem being separated from a 6-month-old child for several hours a day, something is very wrong with you. If you still have this problem when the child is six years old, that’s not normal either.)

It’s the same for a doctor, a software developer, a dentist, a business owner, a marketing specialist, etc, etc. Once you leave a career, all you can get when you go back is a job.

Now, who’s going to fund this universal pre-K? Let’s forget all the childishness about billionaires paying for it. In countries where it exists, the people who pay for it are people like me. And if you are reading this blog, like you. People with careers are taxed to pay for pre-K for people with jobs. As a result, paying for pre-K becomes a lot harder for people with careers who actually need it and who’ll never qualify for the government-sponsored daycare.

The only reason that this makes sense is because it will be very profitable for tech companies. What do you think kids will do much of the day in these cheap governmental daycares? They will stare at screens. Even at expensive private places you need to wage a guerrilla warfare to prevent this from happening. But if you don’t even pay for it, if you are a cashier with a job, how much say will you have when there is a concerted effort to turn your child into a tech consumer from infancy?

I don’t see any other explanation for the simultaneous push for guaranteed basic income to facilitate people with jobs (as opposed to careers) staying at home and the effort to take their kids out of the home. If people with jobs are becoming superfluous in today’s economy and you need measures to keep them fed while they don’t work, then why is there a need for a measure that guarantees the possibility of these folks to hold the jobs that don’t exist?

Of course, there is a more sinister explanation that it’s about brainwashing the children of the undesirables into compliance with the ruling ideology. The deplorables are clearly unhappy with the globalization and the ideological uniformity it requires, so their kids can’t be allowed to be in contact with them too much. I favor the economic explanation I offered above but this one makes sense, too.

39 thoughts on “Universal Pre-K Is a Bad Idea”

  1. Why would the longer maternity break prevent the mother from resuming her career? Make it harder, yes, but in my country maternity leave is 2 years, and women still manage to have careers. I wonder why that would work differently in the US.


    1. Which career can you have after 2 years out of the workplace? Definitely not mine. Definitely not my sister’s who is a small business owner because who’s going to run her business while she’s away? She can’t check out for two months, let alone two years. A surgeon can’t operate after two weeks out of the operating room. The software developer will fall behind so badly she’ll have to start from scratch. A dentist or a lawyer will lose all the clients. Even a freelance translator loses the entire client base in a few months of not working.

      I was on maternity leave for 6 months and it was very hard to catch up. After two years, I’d be completely useless.

      A career requires continuity. That’s how it differs from a series of jobs.

      And I haven’t even touched on the psychological costs of trying to come back after two years. I’m talking strictly about the practical part of losing the clients and the skill.


      1. I talked to my dentist. She is a mother of 3 small kids. With each, she was back at work within 6 weeks. This wasn’t because she wanted to or out of financial necessity. This lady has a very rich husband. But if she leaves, she loses the practice. She employs 9 women (hygienists, technicians, the clerk, the receptionist). They’d all lose their jobs. And the clients would go to somebody else.

        My sister went back to work within weeks, to. Because she is her business. What she sells is her personality and her network of contacts. If she leaves for a year, the business dies. And then good luck rebuilding the network of contacts and catching up on her social media expertise, which is what she sells.

        A good child tax credit is what we need. Everything else is of zero help.


      2. Most of my colleagues are software developers. Two of them have returned from maternal leave last year (full two years for each of them) and they’re both doing fine, one got promoted etc. A couple more will be returning this year. I don’t doubt keeping your skills non-rusty is difficult, nor do I imagine the psychological cost to be inexistent (and I agree that for someone running their own company or freelancing, the time isn’t there – as you were saying, you’re the business in these cases) but there’s a long road from more difficult to impossible, when it comes to salaried positions.


        1. My friend is a very successful lawyer. When she had a baby, the firm offered her a very generous maternity leave. Which she didn’t take because the reason why it was offered is because everybody wants her very lucrative clients. She has two major class-action suits going on right now. The rest of the partners at the firm – all men – would be ecstatic to take over.


    1. Having a child means accepting there is something bigger than you and your whims. Which is exactly what you say, a perfect consumer. This is a tragic incapacity to see anything in life that’s more important than consumption.


      1. The funny thing about the link is that she’s bashing Trump for having a proletarian palate. Her audience is the wealthy, spoiled snowflakes. That’s who she’s trying to appeal to because that’s who she wants to be. I still can’t get over the video where she talks about how matching pijamas are crucial to productivity. I’m sure it’s not the productivity of a steelworker or a Walmart cashier she’s talking about. They have unrefined palate and they like to have kids, so screw those prole losers.


        1. Glad I wasn’t the only one who noticed the bologna thing. AOC is always sending out subtle reminders of the snobby cultural milieu she belongs to; she may have been a bartender, but she went to Boston University.


  2. I have a lot of millennial friends who are choosing not to have children because they are ‘too expensive’. The real reason, I suspect, is because children prevent you from being a perfect little consumer.

    It’s about consumption but not in the way you think. More people with access to their own money facilitates consumption. That’s it. The number of people with jobs is always greater than the number of people with careers.

    Also having children facilitates a flurry of consumption that you otherwise might not have. Why do you think Target gets overzealous about data mining so they can sell products to pregnant women? It hardly matters from capitalism’s perspective if you’re consuming for yourself or on behalf of someone else. “I bought a house in the nice school district because my kid needs the best education. And I bought all this stuff to furnish the house and fix the lawn, and the minivan and the car safe seat and then I’m taking them to enrichment classes and Kumon and after school karate and ballet…etc.” You think people stop buying for their whims just because they channel some of them through their kids? “I want to dress my child in tutus. I want my kid to be a sports legend so I’m signing him up for infant t-ball. “

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The consumerist mentality is about a lot more than buying. It imbues our whole relationship to ourselves, others, and the world. We are all so so beyond consumerism as buying stuff. We are now at the stage of being stuff. Seeing ourselves as stuff, as a consumer good. We are at the stage of seeing other humans as absolutely nothing but consumer goods. This is the real tragedy because it’s the basis of an entire cosmovision.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Indeed, a lot of consumerism doesn’t look anything like buying. Venkatesh Rao at Ribbonfarm called this ‘Gollumization’ after Gollum from LotR – https://www.ribbonfarm.com/2011/01/06/the-gollum-effect/

        “The concrete idea is something I call the Gollum effect. It is a process by which regular humans are Gollumized: transformed into hollow shells of their former selves, defined almost entirely by their patterns of consumption.”


        1. Absolutely. It’s like standing over a decomposing body and discussing how its owner used to have migraines. Sure, migraines stink but this discussion is a bit outdated given that the corpse is all rotted.


  3. Clarissa, I couldn’t disagree with you more. My issues:

    (1) The Head Start program was one of the most effective program for enabling children born in poverty to compete with those from more affluent households. It doubled as education and daycare, and worked.

    (2) Lack of affordable childcare is one of the key factors people point to when they say raising children is too expensive. People have to work these days, they don’t have to have kids. Many millennials are shunning parenthood, especially if they don’t have an extended family around to help care for infants, due to this cost.
    In that respect, AOC is reflecting accurately how a lot of people like her think.

    (3) Lack of affordable childcare is one of the factors keeping some women from working and forcing them instead to stay on welfare. Welfare doesn’t pay that well, but childcare is too expensive for low wage jobs.

    Lack of affordable daycare is a major drag on the US economy, along with underwater mortgages, education loans and unfunded retirement obligations.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. How a lot of people like her think would be exactly the same if they had millions. Or haven’t you noticed that very rich people tend to have a lot fewer people than very poor people? Look at the birth rates in India compared to birth rates in Scandinavian countries with their extremely generous welfare state.


      1. Not sure I get the point. In poorer/agrarian societies, families had more kids to help work farms and to spread the burden of caring for their parents as they grew older. Children in the situation were a cheap resource. Now children are expensive and Millennials face uncertain income in the gig economy. In their situation, I would make the same choice. You can’t take on a responsibility that you can’t afford.


        1. These are all just excuses. These are rich, spoiled people making excuses for their extraordinary self-absorption. That’s all there is to it.

          And no, people in poorer countries don’t have children because they are a cheap resource. That’s actually a very offensive thing to say. My grandparents raised 6 kids, and that wasn’t because they wanted to exploit them. There’s no need to despise people who are from elsewhere.


        2. Poor and working class millennials I know seem less hesitant to have kids than middle class, college educated millennials, so I’m skeptical of your logic here.


            1. $20 for diapers are nothing to me. They are an enormous lot for a person living in poverty.

              I understand not having kids because you can’t afford diapers today. But not having kids because it might be expensive to pay for college 20 years from now – I’m sorry, that’s not how normal people think.

              These are all excuses. And not very Sophia ones because this AOC crowd, they are not smart.


    1. Last week, Tuesday night, Klara woke me up 7 times. Every hour. I thought I was going to die. Is getting up every hour what I wanted to do? No, it wasn’t. But I did because I recognize that there is something more important than my needs. If you are steeped in consumerist mentality, you’ll feel constant rage about it.

      There is this 30+ year-old blogger who writes that she can’t even imagine having children because that would mean giving up the possibility of going out whenever she wants. This is the consumer mentality at its clearest.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I guess if that’s what it takes – a child of yours to make you not think you are the center of the universe – you’re in a very different religion and psychology and politics than I.


        1. Honestly, given all the poorly parented children we have to deal with and the number of adults who see their kids as extensions of their egos (is it really functionally different if the kids are extensions of their brands?) I don’t believe that having kids frees you from having a consumerist mentality.

          There are several huge crises in this country because adults want to follow their own whims and gratification at the expense of the young. Given that most of these adults have children (and grandchildren) do you really think somehow these people don’t see kids as stuff?

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Another way is a sincere practice of a serious religion (not MTD). Or a committed marriage. Or taking care of an elderly relative. Or serious charitable work. There are ways.


      2. Shouldn’t we applaud her for her self-awareness and for not having children she would be a bad mother to, unlike many actual mothers? She’s a good example, not a bad one.


        1. Self-awareness would mean saying, “I’m not having children because I’ll be a crappy mother.” Otherwise, we lose the awareness part and are left only with “self.”


          1. Going off your statement “There is this 30+ year-old blogger who writes that she can’t even imagine having children because that would mean giving up the possibility of going out whenever she wants”, she connects having children with needing to give something up. She wouldn’t physically lose the capacity to perform those actions except around the time of giving birth, so it is implicit here that she thinks that having children and not giving that up would be bad for the children.

            I said “bad mother” meaning someone who knowingly does something that is bad for her children, so she fits the definition.


  4. In my area, there are free pre-k programs open to people regardless of income. These are tax-funded through school-related taxes. A lot of public schools will also offer programs for free—those are directly covered by school district taxes. Our local taxes aren’t bad, either, even though these programs exist. It’s our state taxes going through the roof.


  5. My mother stopped working for a few years (partially because of children, partially for other reasons like that we were moving a lot), and she’s managed to have a career, not just a job. I do think it depends partially what your career is; some of the examples you mention, there really are practical reasons it’s very difficult to take a few years off. Come to think of it, this may have happened around the time my mother switched careers, which would make this all a moot point. I think she could’ve able to take a few years off and go back though.

    Your “people with careers taxed to pay for the pre-K of people with jobs, which they themselves cannot partake of” argument does not convince me. If it’s universal pre-K, then it’s available to everybody, much like our public schools, rather than being means tested. Your point about technology, unfortunately, is true in the modern world.


    1. And public schools are a great case in point. The only way I can guarantee a school with a ban on technology and a lot of physical and outdoors activity is to pay for a private school.

      And the daycare I chose is very expensive precisely because it’s located in a wood and has emphasis on outside play.

      Besides, I already saw how this system works in Canada where my sister pays 50% in taxes and was offered a place in state daycare when her kid went to third grade. Because there was always some extremely needy who deserved the spot more.


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