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 Response Page - Otis  Interview -      

These comments are responses to the questions listed below,
which were generated in regard to the
Todd Otis Interview of


Todd Otis, director of community partnerships for Think Small relates the history of early learning advocacy in Minnesota and outlines the opportunities for economic and social gains for the state that could result from an increase in investment in quality early learning programs. He discusses initiatives presently under way in the administration of Governor Dayton and prospects for more state investment in pre-kindergarten education.

For the complete interview summary see:

Response Summary: Readers have been asked to rate, on a scale of (0) most disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) most agreement, the following points discussed by Todd Otis. Average response ratings shown below are simply the mean of all readersí zero-to-ten responses to the ideas proposed and should not be considered an accurate reflection of a scientifically structured poll.

1. Half not prepared for Kindergarten. (7.4 average response) Lacking participation in early childhood programs, about one-half of Minnesota's children aren't adequately prepared when they enter kindergarten.

2. Unprepared students likely to fall behind. (7.9 average response) Children who are ill-prepared when they start kindergarten are much more likely to fall behind later in regular school work.

3. Prioritize quality care for poor children. (7.8 average response) Because the greatest return on investment is the benefit for low-income children in quality settings, access to quality early learning should be a much higher public priority than now.

4. Rate quality of all care providers. (6.2 average response) To help parents make informed choices for their children, providers should be subject to a statewide quality rating system.

5. Public involvement diminishes parents' role. (3.3 average response) Additional public involvement in early childhood development and learning is ill advised because it diminishes the role of parents while increasing that of government.

Response Distribution:

Strongly disagree

Moderately disagree


Moderately agree

Strongly agree

Total Responses

1. Half not prepared for Kindergarten.







2. Unprepared students likely to fall behind.







3. Prioritize quality care for poor children.







4. Rate quality of all care providers.







5. Public involvement diminishes parents' role.







Individual Responses:

Ray Ayotte (5) (7.5) (7.5) (10) (0)

1. Half not prepared for Kindergarten. I simply don't know.

Bert LeMunyon (2.5) (0) (5) (2.5) (7.5)

1. Half not prepared for Kindergarten. Kindergarten is where children should be preparing for first grade and beyond. Prior to that time, any organized program is mere babysitting. In places where there is no kindergarten, most kids have little trouble catching up by third grade.

3. Prioritize quality care for poor children. I think the problem isn't for kids of low-income families, but for homes with little or no parenting being done. It isn't the same thing.

4. Rate quality of all care providers. Not necessary. If day care isn't good, the word gets around.

5. Public involvement diminishes parents' role. Public involvement is only necessary when parents are not doing their job (or don't know how). If we need a pre-kindergarten program to prepare for kindergarten, the next thing will be the need for a pre-pre program for 0-2 year olds. Day care or other programs will never take the place of parent involvement.

R. C. Angevine (7.5) (10) (7.5) (7.5) (0)

1. Half not prepared for Kindergarten. I would only add that in addition to formal early childhood programs we need to work on increasing participation by parents, both at home with their children and also within other educational settings.

Chris Brazelton (10) (10) (10) (10) (0)

5. Public involvement diminishes parents' role. Done correctly, it increases the parent's capacity for high quality involvement in their children's education.

Ralph Brauer (10) (10) (10) (2.5) (5)

1. Half not prepared for Kindergarten. This is a disgrace.

2. Unprepared students likely to fall behind. The data have showed this for at least a decade and a half--which makes the above even more disgraceful.

3. Prioritize quality care for poor children. That legislators are stuck in no new taxes even if the state is under attack; (the) pledge is a large reason for this. The state is under attack and it is from within and it is being waged against our children.

4. Rate quality of all care providers. This needs to be carefully thought out--and in today's legislature "carefully thought out" is in short supply.

5. Public involvement diminishes parents' role. Jane Addams repeatedly said, "You must do things with people, not to them." Nowhere is that more true than in early childhood education.

W. D. (Bill) Hamm (0) (0) (0) (0) (10)

1. Half not prepared for Kindergarten. This line of elitist (nonsense) has always been (worthless). If we stop our racist attacks on families of color of the idiotic drug war, then we begin to heal the families we have undermined. The ridiculous idea that poor kids are somehow dumber that more affluent children is an outright lie. Give them back their families and they will do fine because the state has never been a quality replacement for family.

2. Unprepared students likely to fall behind. It isn't a matter of being ill prepared as this elitist indicates, it is a matter of racist policies that continue to target families of color 9 times as often as whites for the same drug offenses.

3. Prioritize quality care for poor children. Quality early learning as he is describing it has nothing to do with education but rather getting these kids addicted to ADHD and bipolar drugs as early as possible.

4. Rate quality of all care providers. The states involvement in education has been disastrous. The deeper the state has invaded the rights of parents and local control the worse our education system has gotten. Get these socialistic (people) out of our face, end the "Jim Crow" racism then we can fix our little education problem.

5. Public involvement diminishes parents' role. That is the only statement here that makes any sense.

Jack Evert (7.5) (10) (10) (7.5) (2.5)

Don Anderson (10) (7.5) (10) (7.5) (0)

5. Public involvement diminishes parents' role. Giving children access to early childhood learning is better than having an untrained person doing essentially "child-sitting" work while the parents are at work, or the parents not knowing how to train their child properly.

Dave Broden (10) (10) (7.5) (7.5) (0)

1. Half not prepared for Kindergarten. Seems like a reasonable statement-- but "they aren't prepared relative to what?" is a good question-- i do support early childhood education but not if it is not a quantified value and need.

2. Unprepared students likely to fall behind. Same as #1 above.

3. Prioritize quality care for poor children. No question (that) low income has a early learning bias but access should not be skewed to only low income; if state funding is to occur it must be balance(d) and (dependent upon) perhaps some form of needs test, etc.

4. Rate quality of all care providers. Definitely but not such that the quality criteria becomes another set of never ending metrics that have no value added.

5. Public involvement diminishes parents' role. Public involvement in a quality early childhood program should result in greater parent role rather than diminished. If that cannot be part of the process the public role will have failed.

Peter Hennessey (5) (0) (0) (0) (10)

1. Half not prepared for Kindergarten. The speaker has not offered any proof of his assertion, and of course he has not defined his terms, either. What is an early childhood program? How much participation counts as participation? What is "adequately prepared" -- for kindergarten? We are talking about kindergarten, right? Not law school.

2. Unprepared students likely to fall behind. Again, where is the proof? Kindergarten used to be the means of preparing children for school. Now the assertion is that children need to be prepared for kindergarten; that is, enter a program to prepare them for the preparation for school? What is the next step, a program to prepare them for pre-school, that is, a program for the preparation for the preparation for the preparation for school? Why not just rip the newborn out of his mother's womb and let some state nursery raise him instead of his mother? Where in all this is the recognition of the fact that children mature at vastly different rates, especially in the early years? That some are OK with pre-school and mingling with others, while some are too immature even for kindergarten? That some are much too traumatized by separation from their mother at a much too early age, and carry an underlying personality trait marked by separation anxiety well into adulthood?

3. Prioritize quality care for poor children. There is no "investment." There is no "return on investment." Neither the schools nor the children generate any profit for the "investors." Education is simply and plainly an expense, nothing more, certainly not any more than the food that you eat today is your boss's investment in the work you'll be doing tomorrow. Income has nothing to do with any of this. Intelligence and parenting instincts do not depend on income. A rich mother can be just as stupid a mother as a poor mother can be an excellent one. This is not a matter of money. If you want to view this in sociological terms, then look at genetics, culture and class.

4. Rate quality of all care providers. I'd like to see how the state will rate mothers, grandmothers (let's face it, fathers and grandfathers have no clue or patience when it comes to toddlers), aunts and other relatives. The underlying and absolutely absurd if not downright evil assumption in all this is that only state-educated, state-approved care takers are qualified to be in charge of a classroom full of children; that, in fact, a crowded classroom is the only environment in which children should be raised and acculturated. Why this insane push to bring to reality the frighteningly dehumanizing world portrayed in 1984, Brave New World and Animal Farm? Those books were not supposed to be a blueprint; they were written as warnings.

5. Public involvement diminishes parents' role. Study after study since the very advent of public education has shown that the number one influence on children and the number one predictor of their success is the dedication and skill of their mother and the intellectual atmosphere, pro or con, that prevails at home. The best teachers can rarely if ever overcome the negative influence of incompetent, ignorant parents, a home without a single book, nobody in the habit of reading even a newspaper, nobody being interested in or encouraging the kids to do their homework. Bad examples set at home, on the streets and on TV negate whatever positive influence school and a good teacher might have on all except the most motivated student. What is your answer to that? Removing children from their home, stuffing them into orphanages because the state deems their parents to be too stupid? Or just too poor? The fundamental fact that all advocates of this kind of idea are always desperately trying to evade is that nature has already provided children the teacher they need, especially in the earliest years of their lives. It's their mother. And when the mother is too inexperienced, then the number one source of expert advice is her mother. This is how nature intended it. A mother wolf teaches her cubs to be wolves, a mother cat teaches her kittens to be cats, and so on for most all species of living creatures. A mother of a pre-school child has no business trying to work outside the home. It is the father's job to provide for all their needs. Her hands are full right at home. She is entrusted with the single most important job of all, to see to the healthy growth of her child's body, mind, personality, intellect and soul, to teach her child by example and involvement in all the daily activities around the house and the outside world, including playtime. No "expert" from the state can possibly evaluate, quantify and license that, or even define what good mothering is in operational, quantifiable terms (She picked up and hugged her child 5 times in an hour. Check. She made and served lunch precisely at 12 noon. Check. Oops, she needs lessons in nutrition... Check. They spent the afternoon in the sandbox building sand castles. Check. She read her child a story and pointed at the words and pictures on the page. Check. They sang silly songs together. Check.) The answer does not lie in ripping small children from their mothers and their homes in the name of preparing them for kindergarten. If the state wants to "invest" in this area, then set up and promote pre-natal and post-partum parenting classes to teach those mothers who may be perceived to have deficient mothering instincts and mothering skills some of the obvious basics in raising their children.

Carolyn Ring (8) (6) (8) (2) (5)

Roger Schmitz (na) (na) (na) (na) (na)


Fred Senn (10) (10) (10) (5) (0)

Questions 1 to 3 are simply fact, but not understood by enough people.

John Adams (10) (10) (10) (10) (0)

I spent 50 years in higher education watching and dealing with the consequences of deficient early learning. I wish that Education Minnesota could be enlisted as a powerful voice in favor of stepped up investment in early learning programs.

Chuck Lutz (7) (9) (9) (8) (1)

Shari Prest (8) (8) (10) (6) (1)

4. Rate quality of all care providers. As with everything it depends on what the "quality rating system" is.

Al Quie (5) (10) (10) (10) (0)

Never diminish the role of parents. All early childhood programs should be changed, if necessary, to enhance the involvement of parents. 51% of all the children born to women 30 years of age and younger were born out of wedlock in 2009. That is the fault of the parents of these children.

John Milton (10) (10) (10) (10) (0)

Steve Alderson (6) (8) (8) (4) (0)

Develop strategy to reach parents.

Wayne Jennings (10) (10) (10) (8) (2)

Paul and Ruth Hauge (8) (9) (8) (8) (7)

Lydia Howell (10) (10) (10) (8) (0)

Important article, good survey.

Terry Stone (5) (5) (2) (3) (10)

If one half of Minnesotaís children are not adequately prepared when they enter kindergarten, we need to entertain the possibility that kindergarten standards are out of whack. At some point we need to consider at what point we want to hand our childrenís education to government. Head Start is an Olympic-class multi-decadal sinkhole for public money with no discernible lasting educational result.

Tom Swain (8) (10) (8) (10) (10)



The Civic Caucus   is a non-partisan, tax-exempt educational organization.   The Core participants include persons of varying political persuasions, reflecting years of leadership in politics and business. Click here  to see a short personal background of each.

   Verne C. Johnson, chair;  David Broden, Charles Clay, Marianne Curry, Bill Frenzel, Paul Gilje,  Jim Hetland,  Marina Lyon, Joe Mansky, John Mooty,  Jim Olson,  and Wayne Popham 

The Civic Caucus, 01-01-2008
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