Is That Really a Head Start?

Head Start was started from the Lyndon B. Johnson administration to help people living under the poverty line in Mississippi. The results are offensive of its effectiveness to meet its mission. With an annual budget of $6.7 billion, who is due to take responsibility for the children of the less fortunate?

The American family has changed drastically since the inception of Head Start six decades ago. The policies have become rusty and outdated. I have interviewed a lot of teachers that worked at Head Start. As insiders, they all sing the same tune.

I will start with this: With great power and a lot of money comes a great responsibility. The upper management at Head Start needs to get their heads out of the sand and empty their cups of arrogance. Their model is so out of date and has therefore become totally useless.

Test scores and studies display a grim reaper picture of the job these people are so proud of. It's offensive to spend this kind of money and continue to leave so many young lives in the dust.

First, there are way too many chefs stirring the pot. Lead teachers, assistant teachers, substitutes, psychologists, IEP specialists, assistant directors, directors, area overseers, etc. There is so much adult interaction and explanation that the children's days are overwhelmed with red tape and not much one-on-one learning, which they deserve and desperately need.

My solution is to cut the clutter of people. Trim the numbers of staff and redistribute responsibility. A top-heavy percentage of these employees are lazy, with a chip on their shoulder, and downright malicious. They have plenty of rope to hang themselves and still collect a fat paycheck and benefits package, while the teachers that are closest to the children and can do the most good, see low paychecks and NO support through continuing education. There was no internet and cell phones when some of these job descriptions were created. Most of these positions have become useless and these jobs could easily be done via email and other modern devices fax, website support, etc.

Second, the paperwork that needs to be done. All this hard copy paperwork dates back to when people relied on mail to get tasks done. Paperwork today is uploaded and everyone has access to student files from any computer. To fill out hard copy like they still do is downright ridiculous. Some of the paperwork is repeated more than 3 times a day... yes, a day. Recently, I spent time lecturing at a prestigious University where the masters students in the class that were working with Head Start programs, proceeded to tell me that over 40 percent of their time is done filling out paperwork and they are not left with very much time with the children.

Third, is the overspending on materials and toys. Head Start mirrors the Titanic problems of the American household. Overspending on junk and never teaching children how to play and learn. The toys and materials collect dust in piles. The best solution for this in the American home and in the 20,000+ Head Start classrooms, is to organize the stuff into centers and take the time to teach the young ones to use them. At first, with adult interaction and then on their own to develop critical thinking skills.

Fourth, is a total makeover of the infrastructure and management of the entire Head Start organization. Once we cut spending on staff, materials and paperwork, we must retrain the staff that's left with ongoing teacher support classes on the basic subjects in preschool education, classroom management, and emotional management.

Fifth, is the recommendation by child psychologists in the Head Start program to stop overmedicating behavior problems. Mood suppressing medications for children are under such scrutiny by the rest of the world. They have serious and often permanent side effects and the long term benefits are in the negative.

The solution is intervention education in high stress households of these children and changing nutrition. Parenting is a skill. Teaching parents the basics of how to raise a balanced child would alleviate a big part of children with anger issues and attention deficit disorders. Most solutions are quite simple: Eliminate junk in the forms of food -- pop, candy, chips, and boxed food -- entertainment, video games, unlimited and unsupervised access to age inappropriate material on the internet, and encourage quality time with a mentor. When we take something beloved away, we must sublet with something else that will keep their attention. Inspiring young children to play in their imaginations, develop reading skills, explore the world around them with science and social studies creates balance and appeals to their sense of doing things right instead of falling into bad habits that last a lifetime.

Also, poor nutrition cannot be ignored any longer. It is screaming for our attention. High fructose corn syrup, unnatural and genetically modified crops like the new star on the poisonous red canola, which is a weed, and soybean oils, bleached and processed flour, whey protein, corn starch, etc. in the child's diet at home and at school is the underlying issue of the rapid spread of some of these challenges-autism, ADHD, obesity, and personality disorders. People, especially children need to get their vitamins and minerals from food. Fresh fruit and vegetables, choice cuts of meat, whole grains, and dairy. Properly fed children's bodies build stamina against the negative impulses to the point where they are completely eliminated. In our country with so much abundance and resources, I want to scream it from the roof tops: "WHY NOT?"

Is this really the Head Start we want to give our children?