Iowa senator compares preschool to Nazi indoctrination
Political talk about the merits of preschool evolved into a heated debate about Nazi indoctrination today in the Iowa Senate.
Republican Sen. Mark Chelgren said it’s parents’ responsibility to teach young children.
“It is not the role of this government to take that away from families and replace it with an indoctrination process by teachers,” Chelgren, a freshman senator from Ottumwa, said shortly after the Senate gaveled in for the afternoon.
Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal fired back that all the Iowa Legislature’s early childhood programs over the last 25 years were designed to make sure parents are children’s best teachers.
“That’s what our programs are about,” Gronstal said. “They’re not about indoctrination. We don’t try and change who they are. We don’t try to change them into Democrats. Or Republicans. We try to help parents be their first and best teachers.”
Gronstal said to compare Iowa’s free preschool program for all 4-year-olds to totalitarian regimes “does a disservice to a half million kids in K through 12 education, and another 25,000 or 30,000 in early childhood education.”
Chelgren took to the microphone again to explain that his statement was “not against preschool, but about a parent’s prerogative to make decisions for the children.”
He said he chose to send his own children to preschool because he thought it was in their best interest.
But he said he’s heard talk about the state taking over “pre-preschool” and “pre-pre-preschool” responsibilities.
Chelgren, in his own words: “The Chinese are taking 2- and 3-year-olds and educating them. And as a student of history, I also know the Nazis, the Soviets, a whole variety of groups, a whole variety of countries, take their children because it’s not just up to age six they’re so malleable. The day after they’re born is when they learn the most percentage wise. And so what question I have for this body and the question I have in general, if it is all about indoctrinating a child, I would use the exact same arguments that the Nazis used, that we should take children immediately, as soon as we recognize they have potential. What I would challenge with us instead is to put the responsibility on the parents. Because it is parents’ responsibility and families’ responsibility to make sure that in the formative year of growing the child, they are taught the values and they are taught and educated by their families and they have that bond, that maternal and paternal bond, that is developed during that time. It is not the role of this government to take that away from families and replace it with an indoctrination process by teachers.”