All you ever wanted to know about daycare ideology but they were afraid you’d ask
by Helen Ward, President, Kids First Parent Association of Canada
A 2009 report states that Ontario’s Early Learning Advisor, Charles Pascal’s, preliminary estimates for his proposed system for children ages 0-12 are below true costs. Reports critiquing low-ball guesstimates by mega-project marketeers—of the Olympics for example—are to be expected, and usually elicit rationalizations, not rancour. Yet backers of this proposal, long-reining queen of Canada’s daycare lobby, Martha Friendly, and medical specialist, Dr. Fraser Mustard, immediately accused researcher Andrea Mrozek of replacing “evidence” with ideology. Does this indicate their intolerance for public debate?
At any rate, it certainly invites an airing of the rather kinky ideological underwear covering their asinine agenda. At bottom the goal is: cutting time children spend with their parents. Spin-doctorates robe wolves in sheep’s clothing with rhetoric intended to distract us from this fact: “early learning,” “vulnerability,” “eliminating poverty,” “gender equity,” “work-life balance,” “social cohesion,” “children’s rights.” Call it daycare, preschool, all-day kindergarten, institutionalization, neo-colonialism, or what you will; this ideology is anti-child, anti-woman, anti-parent, anti-evidence, anti-choice, and anti-democracy.
The ideology is called “post-maternalism” or “post-familialism.” It opposes the “ideology of the family” according to insider papers published by Friendly and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). This is apparently the guiding “philosophy” which Friendly’s website mentions. The First Wave “maternalist” feminists fought for the vote largely in order to oppose the long hours and exploitative wages that forced families to put mothers and children into jobs. But Simone de Beauvoir, leader to Second Wave feminism of the 1960s held them in distain. In The Second Sex she wrote, “no woman should be authorized to stay at home to raise her children… Women should not have that choice precisely because, if there is such a choice, too many women will make that one.“
In a remarkable incidence of ideological convergence, the right’s corporate-welfare crowd and the left’s family-bashers got in bed together. They have been eroding the “familialist” policies that supported parental child care and replacing them with non-parental care, welfare cuts, workfare, falling wages, swollen labour supplies, and increased consumption. This mating was frankly mentioned in the Toronto Star: in the late 1990s “the largely female child-care movement was bolstered by ‘the boys’ or ‘the suits’—men such as scientist Fraser Mustard…. Royal Bank Vice-President Charles Coffey…the World Bank and the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development.“
For the left, the insider papers reveal social reconstructionist fantasies: spawning the “new child“: “the public child,” free from the “private sphere of the family.” The sector at the OECD seeks a “new order” of “shared responsibility” for child-rearing between the state and parents, and “professionalization of care.” Daycare staff are the “vanguard” says a widely used ECE textbook. And there are the labour unions seeking to expand membership by representing care workers—other than parents.
For the corporate right, state funded non-parental care is about profit opportunities. The papers say daycare acts as a “low wage subsidy”: McJobs for mums. It keeps wage increases at bay by swelling the labour supply with mothers who, being women, according to The Economist magazine, “usually cost less to employ than men, are more prepared to be flexible and less inclined to kick up a fuss if working conditions are poor. Far fewer of them are members of trade unions.” And it increases sales of goods and services like fast food as time-stressed parents outsource home production. RBC’s above-mentioned Charles Coffey makes it clear who should drive family policy, cynically quoting John Kenneth Galbraith to the World Bankers: “The views of one articulate and affluent banker, businessman, lawyer, or acolyte economist are the equal of several thousand welfare mothers in the corridors of political power.“
Both sides argue that children—”the future stock of human capital“—and child-rearing—”human capital formation”—are “needed” by the economy as GDP fodder. State-funded care ramps up the rat race. Labour force attachment trumps parent-child attachment.
Take daycare-economist Michael Krashinsky of the University of Toronto, reported to be an NDP supporter. In the 1990s, he supported workfare—”it’s not slave labour“—but preferred simply cutting welfare to single mothers. He graphically defended massive manufacturing job losses resulting from globalization: “Capitalism is and always has been brutal. Whenever there has been change, people have been ground up. People like stability, so to get them to leave a dying industry or whatever, you have to burn them…by way of analogy, [farmers]…had to be hammered before they’d get off the land, had to really be hurt.” He converted from critic of to leading apologist for daycare, and was embraced by its left and right factions.
With Gordon Cleveland, he invented the $1 spent = $2 saved hypothesis, arguing that, with daycare, the more you spend the more you save. The calculation was based on many dubious assumptions, including assigning a $0 value to the “developmental benefits” of parental care, while daycare was assumed to produce $3,600 over mothers’ care and $6,500 over dads’ “informal” care. Mothers looking after their own children are called “a loss.” In 1998, Friendly published this never-peer-reviewed misogynistic trash, ever since re-cited by the daycare “evidence” echo-chamber including Charles Pascal’s report, politicians—including then-PM Paul Martin—and media.
That paper’s “evidence” states, “the old labour-intensive way of caring for children…is no longer viable.” It seems now parents and kids have to “be hammered” before we get off each other. This hammering began with post-maternalist welfare reform. The federal government’s website tells how the way was paved with the Self Sufficiency Project, a “social experiment” conducted on over five thousand mothers and children. The purpose was to see if “children suffer because increased employment reduces the time they spend with their parents and increases their parents’ stress.” Selected mothers were offered a “generous” incentive to take jobs.
The teenagers got into shoplifting and using acid, but welfare reform was a shoe-in, backed by the NDP, Liberals and PCs alike amid hysteria over “welfare queens” defrauding the citizenry. Before, single parents remained eligible for welfare until children were in their late teens. But with what Statistics Canada bloodlessly calls “administrative changes,” welfare eligibility is now eliminated on the youngest child’s first birthday for most Canadians. Cuts to the amounts paid by welfare have been much discussed, but this elimination of eligibility is virtually unknown. Even the federal government’s pro-daycare National Council of Welfare cannot provide this information.
“Single mothers had the most dramatic change,” says Stats Can when total welfare expenditures decreased by nearly $4 billion. The elite feminists who had the power to do something silently “sat on their hands.” No wonder: much of the cash was transferred to their pet project, daycare. Provinces’ daycare spending more than tripled to over $2.6 billion by 2005. In Ontario, it was argued “that single parents wouldn’t be disadvantaged because Harris would spend $400 million extra for day care to offset the added demand on that service.” But the US Census Bureau later reported that for single parent families, welfare reform caused more harm than good.
Quebec’s daycare system also illustrates post-familialism inhumanity. It is the model for the rest of Canada, said to be high quality, universal, and supportive of “gender equity.” Reality check: 73 percent of daycare kids are in centres of “minimal” or lower quality reports system supporter Christine Japel. Inadequate regulations allow one staff member to be responsible for five to eight one-year-olds. As for universality, Friendly herself says it’s not. Under 25 percent of children are in centers, thankfully. Kids and parents can thank the system for increased illness, behavioural, and parenting problems according to a Purvis Prize-winning report in the prestigious Journal of Political Economy.
But that system’s dirty big secret is that it was funded by de-funding low-income families. According to Jocelyn Tougas, former head of the Child Care Advocacy Association and a leader in the initiative, “as for funding for the new regime, it has mainly come from…family allowances, benefits for young children, and the ‘baby bonus’ [up to $8000], as well as the repatriation of Quebec’s share of the federal government’s Child Benefits Program“—which helps low-income families. Daycare robbed the poor.
Thankfully BC does not “repatriate” my kids’ federal financing. Yet here as elsewhere, taxpayers absorb the real costs of up to over $30,000/year per child for daycare.
The Quebec rip-off quickly led to a 7.7 percentage point increase in mothers’ Labour Force Participation rate, hailed as a triumph for “gender equity” and in keeping with the vision of an OECD colloquium bluntly titled “Putting More Women to Work.” But, guess what? No one deigned to ask the lowly mums if they wanted Women’s McLib. “Arbeit macht frei:” work makes you free ma, get off your duff. What’s next? – rescinding our right to vote?
In Sweden after over 30 years of funding daycare and not parents, government reports rising rates of domestic violence against women, youth suicide and youth violence. Academic scores for teens have plummeted and are far below Canada’s. Kids in daycare centers are 6.78 times more likely to be sick. Income under CDN$3,000 is taxed—at 30 percent. This forces almost all parents into full time jobs—to pay the $27,000 government spends on each daycare space.
With feminism like this, who needs patriarchy? With socialism like this, who needs capitalism?
Returning to Friendly’s attack on Mrozek, it cites as if it were “evidence” an Australian Senate recommendation, but she avoids mentioning their core evidence findings: “formal childcare at a young age can place children’s social, emotional and behavioural development at risk.“
Friendly (also Mustard, Cleveland and Krashinsky) moonlights with the OECD, a supposedly objective, unaccountable, tax-funded, transnational bureaucracy, which says its purpose is “enabling globalization.” She co-authored their “Background Report” on Canada. Yet her participation in the 2003 review was denied and covered up by both her and review head, John Bennett in letters to the National Post. Their “upstream policy recommendations” included using kindergarten as a “bridge” to build universal daycare.
As a quasi-academic married to a professor, Friendly is privileged. So are her backers like Mustard’s co-author, Margaret McCain, wife of a frozen-food empire billionaire. Yet Friendly claims it is we who oppose this agenda who “tend to be very privileged people,” unlike “poor people and new immigrants who are not grand enough to be supported by their husband.” Well, her data classify my family as living in “deep persistent poverty.” Furthermore, she vehemently opposes income redistribution—money for families not institutions—suggested by Mrozek. She envisions instead class solidarity between rich and poor: “How do we see Canadian society? In my kids’ public schools, there were rich kids and poor kids. Isn’t that what we want?“
The McCain empire stands to benefit from the policy it is advocating, through increased sales of convenience foods and an increased subsidized low-wage labour supply. Friendly routinely lobbies for more funding for her work. But these apparent conflicts of interest go unmentioned.
Let us take a closer look at Dr Mustard’s ideology. Pascal calls him “godfather.” He claims, “only about one-third of the population are actually highly competent parents…17 per cent are godawful.” But his expertise is in blood, not godawfulness. He told the Senate: “When you achieve fame for something you were never trained in, it is amazing what your contacts are. I have been working for the World Bank and the bank for Latin America.” “Evidence” found in his Early Years Study includes urging adoption of the World Bank’s agenda, and quotes from its disgraced former head, technocrat and ultra neo-con, Paul Wolfowitz.
The Bank’s agenda is spelled out in a speech by Mustard colleague, Charles Coffey former RBC VP: parents are valued as “employees and consumers.” There is a “business imperative” in the “early child development industry” with “potential to spawn new approaches to data collection,… government policy, and advocacy.“
Data mining mixed with policy and advocacy produces high-end “knowledge economy” jobs, and toxic tailings corroding democracy, informed consent, privacy, and parent-child attachment. Long time World Bank staff, Clyde Hertzman, acts as Big Brother for his Banker colleagues, Coffey and Godfather Mustard. BC funds Hertzman and his Human Early Learning Partnership’s (HELP) goal of electronically “linking” the private records (medical, school, tax, pharmaceutical, census, etc) of all BC children and their families “from pre-conception to young adulthood.” In a huge conflict of interest, HELP also creates, advises on, evaluates, promotes and collects data for child policy, including kindergarten/daycare expansion.
Hertzman recently co-authored a widely-publicized paper for the Business Council of BC claiming that over $400 billion would be saved by funding more non-parental care like all-day kindergarten. In it Hertzman—like Mustard and company—repeatedly imply Nobel Prize-winning economist James Heckman supports their policy proposals. This is false. Heckman says, “none of this evidence supports universal preschool programs;” only mother-empowering programs targeting underprivileged children produce benefits over costs. He observes, “advocates and supporters of universal preschool often use existing research for purely political purposes.”
But for those seeking to cut parents’ time with children, politics is not about democratic debate and winning citizens’ votes for post-familialism, which is totally unmarketable. They work from on high, through bureaucracies, manipulating policy by screening out information and expertise that counters the spin they claim as “evidence.” They specialize in strategy, in packaging, in “strategically positioning” their pet policies so the real costs are hidden, in fuzzy numbers and words.
It is time to expose these machinations and remove them from the public trough. Make these ideologues liable for the harm their agenda is causing children, women, and parents.
- Mustard attack on Mrozek (broken link), Nov 26/09 Globe and Mail
- M Friendly attack on Mrozek (broken link), Nov 27/09 National Post
- January 2001. Lenira Haddad. Childcare Resource and Research Unit – research study: “An Integrated Approach to Early Childhood Education and Care: A Preliminary Study” (download full PDF here).
OECD “new order” paper: speech made at the OECD Starting Strong event and republished by the leading daycare lobby organization, Childcare Resource and Research Unit, run by Martha Friendly in Toronto.
4. July 2005. Rianne Mahon. Childcare Resource & Research Unit University of Toronto – research paper: “The OECD and the reconciliation agenda: Competing blueprints” (click link for PDF download) p 24-2
Friendly/OECD “public child” paper: “Part of the hope may lie…in countries where ‘the long default position of the child located in the private sphere of the family is being disturbed by some glimmerings of the ‘public child’, replete with voice, rights and citizenship’ (2004: 211). Yet this ‘new child’ will need allies which might be found, inter alia, in recharged feminist and trade union movements.”
5. The Economist. “Women and work: For better, for worse”. London: Jul 18, 1998. Vol. 348, Iss. 8077; pg. S3, 4 pgs
6. “Vanguard” p53 “Empowering Children: Play-based Curriculum for Lifelong Learning” Textbook
7. Krashinsky on capitalism, 24 April 1993, The Toronto Star, SA2
8. Krashinsky opposed daycare funding, “The State of Daycare” (broken link) 1984 Krashinsky interview with Barbara Frum
9. The social experiment, “The Self-Sufficiency Project at 36 Months: Effects on Children of a Program that Increased Parental Employment and Income” (broken link), June 2000, Social Research And Demonstration Corporation
10. August, 2000. Kurt J. Bauman. U.S. Census Bureau Pop Div – working paper: “The Effect of Work and Welfare on Living Conditions in Single Parent Households” (click link for PDF download)
US Census report finds welfare reform hurt single parents and their children. “The paper finds an apparent advantage of work over welfare for most households, but not for single parent households.”
11. Spring 1998. Gwendolyn Mink. Social Justice – journal article: Feminists, Welfare Reform, and Welfare Justice
- Mar 25, 2009. The Local—Swedens’ News in English – article: Young Swedes’ mental health deteriorating: report“. (Rising domestic violence, youth suicide and violence)
- December 2007. Patrick Bussière et. al. Statistics Canada – study: Measuring up: Canadian Resultsof the OECD PISA Study (OECD PISA results from p60) original link here
- taxes 30%—personal communication
- illness in daycare (broken link) p 18
13. Quebec daycare effects: “Universal Childcare, Maternal Labor Supply and Family Well-Being” (broken link) by Michael Baker (University of Toronto), Jonathan Gruber (MIT) and Kevin Milligan (University of British Columbia) p3 maternal labour force increase
14. Mustard ‘god father’ p 54 “With Our Best Future in Mind” (broken link) Pascal report
15. Australian report (broken link)
16. 2004. OECD Directorate for Education – research: Early Childhood Education and Care Policy (click link for PDF download) OECD, Canada, Country Note
OECD Review Upstream Policy Recommendations from p 76 “Build bridges between child care and kindergarten education“
“170. One means of providing a universal service—and one which seems to have the favour of Canadian parents (Johnson and Mathien, 1998)—would be to develop the present school based, kindergarten service. This offer could be expanded to full-day kindergarten (as is already the case in some places in Canada), with the addition of full-day pre-kindergarten whenever possible… The aim would be to provide a free morning education service for all children from the age of 4 years, followed by a subsidised recreational and early learning session in the afternoon. … A parallel increase in out-of-school provision for school age children could also be envisaged…
17. February, 14, 2008. Senate of Canada – transcription Mustard to Senate
18. September 28, 2005. Charlie Coffey. RBC/World Bank – transcription: Find speech text here
19. Tougas on funding Quebec system (p101 Our children’s Future: Child Care Policy in Canada).
20. Toronto Star Mustard quote, Mar 26, 2007, pg. A.1
21.M. Friendly ‘Privileged’ Stay-at-home parents pitted against those employed
Lorrayne Anthony, Canadian Press
Published: Wednesday, December 14, 2005
22. Feminists and corporate guys together
Toronto Star, April 24 2005
The ‘Tiny Tot’ brigade
23. National Council of Welfare
No info on age-criteria—email correspondence 2008
pro daycare report, p11 (broken link)
23. Hertzman/HELP “from pre-conception to young adulthood” (broken link). See also this update (broken link)
24. HELP’s multiple roles in BC child/family policy: “Strong Start” programs for ages 0-5 in “underutilized” schools get the “integration” agenda started (broken link) See page 2
HELP runs the advisory council and the evaluation.
25. HELP’s top three staff, UBC’s Hertzman, Goelman, Kershaw, are the only three “academics” on the pro-daycare Provincial Child Care Council advising the government on policy (broken link).
26. Feb 2007 HELP/BC Government paper, “A Bold Vision: Documenting the Pivotal Role of Schools in Early Child Development” (broken link)
27. “All-day kindergarten is a first step (broken link)” LTE from Hertzman to Vancouver Sun misrepresenting Heckman
28. Hertzman’s ’15 by 15′ (broken link)
29. Aug. 22, 2008. Shika Dalmia and Lisa Snell. Wall Street Journal – article: “Protect Our Kids from Preschool”
Heckman quoted from August 22, 2008, p 35 of The Productivity Argument for Investing in Young Children