This is an excellent article that was researched and printed in Arkansas Citizen in November, 1995. All the material is still relevant today and maybe more so with the state and national push to add more preschool programs. The Anti Bias book discussed in the article is still being highly promoted in early childhood catalogs in 2002 and can be ordered by calling NAEYC at1-800-424-2460. Their website is www.naeyc.org
A HEAD START OR A STEP BACK
Recently Family Council researched a rather questionable, if not disturbing curriculum used in the tax-supported Head Start program. The shocking things taught in this curriculum sparked our interest in the Head Start program in general. Therefore, Family Council sent a representative to this conference to get an idea of what Head Start is, what is being taught to its teachers, and, more importantly, what its teachers are teaching the children of Arkansas.
The 30th Anniversary of Head Start was celebrated at a recent conference. “Soaring Into the 21st Century” was the theme of the Arkansas Head Start Training Conference, held in Little Rock September 20-22. Governor Jim Guy Tucker commemorated the anniversary by proclaiming September “Project Head Start’s 30th Anniversary Month.”
WHAT IS HEAD START ?
Project Head Start began in 1965, as part of Lyndon B. Johnson’s “War on Poverty.” It is a federally funded compensatory education program that provides for the developmental needs of children from low-income families and children who are disabled.1 Approximately 597,000 children were enrolled in this nine-month program, across the nation in 1991.2 There are over 970 Head Start centers located in Pulaski County, made up of children ages three to five.
According to Arkansas Head Start’s mission statement their primary goal is to provide complete services to all eligible children and families in the state. Their secondary aim is to expand their services to reach the child care of working families.
Head Start is now planning to expand its role. No longer wanting to help meet the needs of the less fortunate; now it wants to work to meet the child care needs of working families as it expands its role in child care, it will also expand its sphere of influence over our nation’s future.
The conference’s purpose was to train teachers to better the lives of children they care for. It was broken down into blocks, each block teaching a different area of the overall Head Start philosophy. Family Council was obviously unable to attend every block, but the following account of the blocks chosen will give a flavor of the conference and Head Start as a whole.
The first day of the conference was more of an icebreaker. The name of the education discussion group attended by the Family Council representative was “Component Networking.” There were five different “networking” groups: education, parent involvement, social service, health/nutrition, and disabilities.
Education networking was led by a Head Start education coordinator. Those in the session talked about the best tests to evaluate children. Observation seemed to be the best way to determine a child’s level of learning. Teachers as well as the education coordinator evaluates the children’s progression through the year.
Head Start works within the arena of educational cooperatives. These same type of cooperatives (co-ops) are used by the elementary and secondary teachers across the state. In these co-ops, different teaching materials are shared, and teachers talk to one another about the best new teaching methods they have found.
ANTI-BIAS CURRICULUM AND MENTAL HEALTH
During each session, there were several classes from which to choose. Classes were offered on everything
from violence prevention to developing mentor teachers. “Looking at the Role of the Mental Health Professional” seemed the most interesting. The session looked at the use of full-time mental health professionals and consultants in the observation of children.
The instructor discussed the mental wellness policy used by Head Start. It focused on three different areas: 1)prevention, 2) identification, and 3) referral and treatment. The wellness approach is based on positive classroom management. Self-esteem is the cornerstone of prevention. A tool suggested to teachers to promote mental wellness was Anti-Bias Curriculum: Tools for Empowering Young Children. The instructor said every classroom should have a copy of the Anti-Bias Curriculum. She said that this would help in mental wellness because it addresses the issues of sexism and racism (a review of this curriculum was published in the September edition of the Arkansas Citizen).
When asked if the curriculum was used by Head Start’s mental health coordinators, she said that it was. She also said every elementary school associated with Head Start is given a copy of the curriculum through the First Steps program.
The Anti-Bias Curriculum: Tools for Empowering Young Children is a curriculum developed for children, ages two to five. It promotes the acceptance of cultural diversity, which includes the gay and lesbian lifestyle and pagan religions.
The previous session was not the last time the Anti-Bias Curriculum was mentioned in a favorable light. The next class of the day was “Multi-Cultural Principles.” In this class the ten Head Start multi cultural principles were the topics of discussion.
The first principle states that every individual is rooted in culture.”3 This is the basis for the multi-cultural teaching of Head Start. Principle four states that “addressing cultural relevance in making curriculum choices is a necessary, developmentally appropriate practice”.4 (“Developmentally appropriate” means that discussing culture with children ages three to five is on a level the children can understand.) When this principle was mentioned in the class, one of the books that was identified as being a good resource was, Anti-Bias Curriculum: Tools for Empowering Young Children. This curriculum seemed to be well known to the rest of the participants in the class, and from the comments made about Anti-Bias Curriculum, the group liked using it.
The most interesting topic for session three was called “Compassionate Parenting”. This class looked at parenting strategies. The instructor stressed the importance of the family as the core of society.
“Compassionate” was broken down into two root words: passion and compass. The instructor said parents need to have a loving passion for their children, as well as guide them in the right direction. Parents are responsible to provide their children with a vision for their future that includes the qualities of competence, confidence and independence.
The instructor claimed she based her information on the work of psychologists B. F. Skinner, who argued that all behavior is fully governed by outside stimuli and Alfred Adler, who developed the idea of an “inferiority complex”.5
HEAD START AND THE FAMILY
The Head Start program stresses the importance of the family. Family was the theme of speaker after speaker. At every session Head Start teachers, aides, directors, coordinators and instructors said that without the involvement of parents, their task is almost hopeless. To encourage parent involvement and to build relationships between parents and teachers, Head Start does home visits. These visits are done twice a year by teachers. This allows children to meet their teachers in a secure environment and allow the teacher to see the culture of the children in their classroom.
The last session of the day was called “Developing Portfolios / The Sampling System / Anecdotal Records.” In This class the same methods that are used in Outcome-Based Education were introduced.
Assessment is a tool or process used to determine a child’s ability in certain areas. There are four types of assessments: 1) developmental screening for high risk children, 2) diagnosis of disabilities, 3) readiness test of skills and 4) achievement.
To aid in making child assessments, teachers use the sampling system. This system entails the observation of children to determine strengths and weaknesses as well as to help children in the areas where they are weak. The performance-based assessment evaluates children by looking at their portfolios. Portfolios are an accumulation of a child’s work. They show quality of work, demonstrate process and growth over time, involve children in the assessment process, and assist the teacher with instruction planning.
The portfolio method might be familiar to those who have children in public school. Portfolios are being introduced in schools where Outcome-Based Education is being implemented. Portfolios are used to keep track of student progress rather than using the traditional method of testing.
MULTICULTURAL PARENT INVOLVEMENT
“Multi-Cultural Parent Involvement” was the session of choice on day 3. In this session cultural differences were discussed in the light of their importance to the changes that lie ahead for children in the 21st century.
The instructor emphasized the need for teachers to show the utmost respect for the cultural background of the children in their classrooms. She defined culture not as race or ethnic make up, but as a way of life. She stated that the traditional two-parent family is becoming less and less common in the United States today. Teachers should know their students’ parents, and build relationships with them so that they can better understand their family needs.
The instructor emphasized the point that we all have different cultures, but in order to be successful in the world around us we must know the “culture of power.” She told the class to teach children this “culture of power,” so they could be a part of the work force outside their own cultural background.
SELF-ESTEEM AND SSELF-ACTUALIZATION
“The Multi-Cultural Perspective: Anti-Bias Curriculum / Building Self-Esteem,” the keynote address of the conference, kept up the same general line of instruction. The speaker began her address with Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. She said Head Start successfully helped meet the basic needs that all people have - the need for food, clothing and shelter. She then urged the teachers to go even further - to help children meet the higher need of self-esteem.
Maslow identified the last need of any individual as self-actualization. He argued that those individuals who have reached self-actualization have the “ability to free themselves from stereotypes.”6
The speaker did not go into these specific theories, but she did focus on the need of teachers to overcome stereotypes.
The event concluded with a call from one of the ladies in charge. She began to talk about the Native American culture, and ask the audience to get up and begin to move to their left while they clapped a rhythmic beat. This was the point at which Family Council coverage of the 30th Anniversary Arkansas Head Start Conference came to an end.
The educational methods Head Start uses are based on the ideas of psychologists like B.F. Skinner, Alfred Adler and Abraham Maslow. The work of these men was not developed for education. They were behavioral psychologists, who developed theories about how individuals act. Their work was not based on absolute fact, but rather on subjective hypotheses.
The material s in Head Start most widely promoted are those like Anti-Bias Curriculum: Tools for Empowering Young Children, which emphasis the need for children to accept all diversity.
In Head start, teaching American citizenship has bee replaced by the goal of making children citizens of the world. American culture is now defined as the culture of power. Teaching children basic skills for their future has now been deemed to make them powerful people rather than good people, and the idea of serving as a teacher in order to protect the future is now looked at as having power over the future.
Accepting the culture of those we live and work with is an important part of showing the love of Christ. But the tools that are being used in the multi-cultural educational movement are not the way to go. They teach that nothing is wrong, that no way of life can be faulted. This can lead to the acceptance of false religions and the actual act of worshiping false gods, as seen in the call for all Head Start teachers to be involved in the Native-American dance that concluded the conference.
1. Groiler Encyclopedia,
( Groiler Electronic Publishing, Inc.) 1993
2. Groiler Encyclopedia
( Groiler Electronic Publishing, Inc.) 1993
3. Head Start Multi-Cultural Principles.
4. Head Start Multi-Cultural Principles.
5. Weiten, Wayne,
Psychology: Themes and Variations
(Brook/Cole Company) 1989
6. Groiler Encyclopedia
( Groiler Electronic Publishing, Inc.) 1993
7. Louise Derman-Spanks,
Anti-Bias Curriculum: Tools for Empowering Young Children
(1993) Page 91.