More Tech Doesn’t Help Preschoolers — And It May Even Harm Them

August 29, 2017

by Karen R. Effrem, MD


The corporate data miners that seek to psychologically profile our children in their unproven and dangerous experiments — both for profit and in order to convert education into workforce development for a planned economy — are trying to expand the preschool technology market. And of course, mind-bending social emotional learning (SEL) is at the forefront.

I was both alarmed and grieved to come across this market analysis of the preschool technology sector titled “Early Learning Faces Obstacles and Inequities—Here’s How Edtech Can Help.” This sponsored blog post on EdSurge was submitted by the NewSchools Venture Fund, a charter school philanthropy that acts like a hedge fund supported by all of the usual suspects in education reform, like the Bill Gates, Broad, Dell, Carnegie, and Walton Foundations. This fund has spent millions of dollars starting charter schools in Washington D.C., Boston, Newark, and other cities. Most have not been in existence long enough to have long-term academic results. Some have been successful but also controversial, engendering protests and lawsuits for violating public notification requirements and other concerns.

Here is an excerpt from their mission statement:

We invest in a diverse and dynamic community of public schools (PreK-12) that emphasize personalized learning experiences and student ownership. Because we believe that students need to acquire skills beyond academic content mastery, we partner with teams of educators who embrace an expanded definition of student success, which includes the full range of knowledge, skills, and mindsets students need for success in college, career, and life. [Emphasis added]

Notice the emphasis on personalized (computerized or competency-based) education that minimizes student-teacher interaction and collects much data on children — including SEL data — and the emphasis on mindsets, which is another term for SEL.

Their preschool technology initiative seeks to put as much “learning” and “observation and assessment” software into the pre-K classroom as possible based on their “research,” which they also call a “Market Gap Analysis (MGA).” They use the MGA to justify their invasive efforts to monitor and change the attitudes and beliefs of very young children. Here are a few of their claims, followed by some analysis:

  • CLAIM: “In addition to academics, other skills like social-emotional and executive functioning skills that begin emerging in young children should be cultivated in preschool and early elementary settings. These skills can be referred to as the Mindsets, Essential Skills, and Habits (MESH) competencies, expanding the definition of what student success looks like.” [Emphasis added]

ANALYSIS: FALSE. There is no significant evidence that SEL “expands the definition of what student success looks like.” In fact, multiple studies and even NPR admit that there is no agreed upon definition of SEL. In addition, as pointed out in a recent article here, there is “no evidence of cost effectiveness, no great evidence of general effectiveness… and there is clear evidence that these programs are being cultivated to indoctrinate students…”

  • CLAIM: “Only 40 percent of four-year-olds are enrolled in publicly funded preschool programs, which means many children enter kindergarten developmentally behind their peers in social-emotional and academic skills.” [Emphasis added]

ANALYSIS: FALSE. It is absolutely false to say that children not in public preschool are developmentally behind children who are. The reason that only 40 percent of children are in publicly funded preschool is that parents want to influence the hearts and minds of their children at this tender age. If they must enroll them in preschool or childcare, they might well choose private or religious programs that do not inculcate controversial state or national content standards involving careers, environmentalism, or gender identity, to name a few. There are multiple outcome studies showing academic and emotional harm of these public programs, including Head Start, which makes it highly likely that children who do not attend public preschool are apt to be ahead of their public preschool peers, not behind them.

  • CLAIM: “Children’s learning experiences in pre-kindergarten through early elementary are shaped by many factors, including race and income; consequently, they often face school readiness gaps that could be addressed with technology solutions.” [Emphasis added]

ANALYSIS: FALSE. As discussed above, preschool in general does not work to close readiness gaps because it does not improve academics in general and can even cause academic harm in both reading and math. And the news on the effectiveness of technology in the classroom is equally bad, as admitted by Bill Gates himself, with the added grave concerns of potentially delayed language development, decreased attention, and excessive electromagnetic field exposure.

Most importantly of all on this issue, it is not technology that will close achievement gaps, but rather strong families. Poverty, often blamed for the achievement gap and the excuse for Head Start and many other preschool programs, is actually a proxy-measure for single parenthood. A review of data by Dr. William Jeynes from more than 20,000 African-American and Hispanic high school students in the National Educational Longitudinal Survey shows the spectacular result that two-parent families and religious observance actually erases the achievement gap. This is something that more than $2 trillion dollars and 50 years of oppressive, unconstitutional federal interference in education have never come close to achieving.

Of course there is also the issue of ever metastasizing data collection that accompanies education technology, which is particularly troubling in the preschool age group, because most of the data is non-academic and includes lots of sensitive family and health data. The NewSchools people justify this data collection by saying “technology can be a game changer for more operational efficiency and deriving greater insights on student outcomes.” Here is an illustration of that new technology being sold to preschool and daycare programs that even monitors toilet training:

Given that there is little evidence for success of preschool programs, social emotional learning intervention, and education technology when viewed separately, it is quite unlikely that there will be no success when they are combined. Even worse, as discussed above, there is significant evidence of harm to all three concepts, in addition to the dangers to privacy and freedom of conscience. This sensitive data will follow children for life. Parents must take a stand to protect the hearts, minds, and privacy of their children.


Dr. Karen Effrem is trained as a pediatrician and serves as president of Education Liberty Watch and the executive director of the Florida Stop Common Core Coalition.

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