No conspiracy in learning hubs

By Baker City Herald Editorial Board November 15, 2013 10:05 am

Do you want all children in Baker County to be healthy, happy and ready to learn to read when they walk into a kindergarten classroom for the first time?

Yes, that was a rhetorical question.

Of course we all want this to be the case.

And yet a statewide campaign to achieve that goal not only has failed to gain universal admiration, but Baker County’s Republican Central Committee has passed a resolution urging county commissioners not to participate in that campaign, even though it could bring more public dollars to the county.

(Earlier this week a state board decided not to choose the regional hub, which includes Baker, Malheur and Umatilla counties, for a one-year pilot project. What will happen with the three-county plan is not clear.)

This opposition reflects both the clumsy communication tactics of the public sector, which is promoting the “early learning hub” concept in Oregon, as well as the instinctive distrust that some people have for any government endeavor which even suggests Socialism.

We don’t see any reason to worry.

The early learning hub idea seems to us an example of something at which the government excels: Describe what’s already happening but give it a new name — ideally one with a catchy acronym — and act as though it’s a revolutionary idea.

Trouble is, in explaining how wonderful this idea is, public officials tend to rely on impenetrable jargon that sounds more socialistic than it actually is.

Consider these two sentences from Oregon’s early learning hub website (www.oregonearlylearning.com).:

“Under the Early Learning Hub model, all of the sectors that touch early childhood education – health care, early childhood educators, human and social services, K-12 school districts, and the private sector – have a common place to focus their efforts, resources, and strategies with a shared purpose.”

“Every interaction a child has from birth to the Kindergarten doors has an effect on the rest of their life.”

Little wonder that skeptics in the GOP and elsewhere detect the specter of an omnipotent government that wants to be involved in “every interaction” a kid has in his first five years.

But this is misleading.

All the entities listed in the first sentence already exist and are operating in our county. We have a health care system. We have public schools and social service agencies.

There’s nothing sinister about early learning hubs. The state isn’t going to start sending agents to every home in Baker County to make sure tots are getting enough to eat and having Dr. Seuss read to them every evening after a vigorous tooth-brushing.

More to the point, none of these “services” — a generic, nearly useless word if ever there was one — is mandatory. 

No parents, save those under a court order, are required to seek advice from a public agency about how to be better parents.

For those parents who would appreciate some advice, though, the early learning hub concept might be helpful, as it’s designed to make it easier for people to navigate the various bureaucracies.

We’re not confident that this will have any appreciate effect, particularly in a small town such as Baker City where the phone book, that paper anachronism, is still pretty useful.

But neither do we see any legitimate reason for county commissioners to balk at joining an early learning hub.