Pyle: Afraid of our own children
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

[Above: This clip probably makes a point exactly the opposite of the one I support. But, if you know of a song half as good that backs my views, please let me know.]

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A wise friend of mine once observed that there are two kinds of parents in the world: Those who are afraid that their children will be smarter than they are, and those who are afraid that their children won't be smarter than they are.

And both kinds of parents are likely to be disappointed.

Parents who hope that their own children will never think or know or believe anything other than what their parents thought or knew or believed are, by definition, not very smart. So it won't take any great effort for many of those children to surpass their elders both in raw knowledge and in deep understanding.

Parents who hope for nothing more than for their children to continue the march of evolution and leapfrog over them in both raw knowledge and keep understanding are, by definition, pretty bright. So, as long as they live, those parents will keep adding to their stores of knowledge and understanding, usually keeping one or two steps ahead of even their most clever progeny.

(Note, also, that technology often provides smart parents with another advantage that keeps them an intellectual step or two ahead of their children. The generation that read books was supplanted by a generation that watched TV. And the generation that watched TV is being supplanted by a generation that posts tweets and watches cat videos. What was that I just said about the march of evolution?)

But a vote the other day in the Utah Senate was a victory for parents who hope to see their own children, and everyone else's, frozen in time.

Sen. Aaron Osmond, a South Jordan Republican, showed great creativity coming up with a way to fund voluntary preschool programs for children of families that, due to poverty or other handicaps, cannot or do not provide the same kind of intellectual and emotional preparation for learning that most other families either create or pay for.

Rather than drop a big burden on the taxpayers to fund an admittedly experimental initiative, Osmond's SB71 would have asked private investors to contribute $10 million toward such programs. Then, over the next few years, the state would set aside $1 million a year, as it evaluated the results of the various preschool programs.

If it were found that the programs so funded actually helped young children to enter school with the chops to face real education, the state would give the investors their money back, with interest.

If not, well, them's the breaks.

"We only pay if we have the results," Osmond said. A fiscally conservative statement if ever there was one.

But the Senate shot the plan down. Most of the debate centered on a But-we've-never-done-it-that-way-before argument, worrying about making everything transparent. Valid arguments, but seldom heard in Utah's halls of power when someone is proposing any other kind of economic development package.

The real reason Osmond's plan died is the fear among lawmakers, and among some of the more active lobbyists who harangue them, that preschool is some kind of nefarious plot to get ever-younger children away from their parents and somehow inculcate them with some kind of collectivist propaganda.

Which is, of course, bunk. If the schools were capable of brainwashing our children, they'd be brainwashing them with reading, writing, math, science and history. Our dropout rate would be much smaller. Our test scores would be much higher. And our kids would be smarter than we are.

There are conflicting studies on whether preschool programs, like the venerable Head Start or newer models being tested in, among other places, the Granite School District, actually work.

But something that does work has to be found, or the next generation of Utahns is going to be just too dumb to make it in the post-industrial world.

Osmond was looking for something that works. The fact that he didn't get more help shows just how frightened some people are of their own children.

George Pyle, a Tribune editorial writer, no longer even tries to stay ahead of his sons' intellectual ability. You can commiserate with him at gpyle@sltrib.com or via Twitter @debatestate.