Indiana legislators intend to introduce virtual pre-K as part of their expansion of preschool for the state. It is no doubt a way to save money for the state, just plopping babies in front of a computer, supervised by a parent, and calling it “pre-school.” Would they do it to their own children? Peter Greene wrote about this UPSTART program here.

The news report says, in all seriousness:

“It’s really attractive because it involves the parent specifically in providing the program for the kid and many times the issue with children who are not ready for school is unengaged parents,” Senator Luke Kenely, R-Noblesville, said. “This really engages the whole family. I just believe it’s a much more wholesome approach that will have a better lasting effect.”

The UPSTART online curriculum calls for parents to spend 15 minutes a day with their child five days a week. The program started in Utah and lawmakers hope to bring it to Indiana to reach low-income families in rural counties that might not have access to pre-K education otherwise.

“I think it will be a huge benefit for about 60 counties in the State of Indiana that they have never had that chance before,” Senator Kenley, who serves as the Senate Appropriations Chairman, said.

Lawmakers are planning to allocate $1 million toward the program in its first year. Senator Kenley said the average cost per student is about $1,400 and the program could serve about 700 Hoosiers in its first year.

Peter Greene describes the program, which will be adopted in Utah and probably Indiana, and says:

Pre-K can be done in so many beneficial ways, but none of those ways are focused on academic achievement. What four year olds need to do is play, play slightly organized games, play unorganized games, play by themselves, play with others, and also play. If they feel inclined to explore reading or math or science or art or whatever, that should be encouraged. But enforced or required. No, no, no, and also no.

Supporters will say, “Lighten up– we’re only talking about fifteen minutes a day, five days a week.” And I agree that beats some Pre-K classroom where students are expected to sit and study academic subjects for hours, just as being hit in the face with a hammer is better than being assaulted in the chest with a jackhammer.

But UPSTART also gives tiny humans an early close connection with a screen, introduces them to the idea of learning as a chore that must be done to someone else’s satisfaction, and gets the whole family acclimated to being data mined. It’s a sweetheart deal of the Utah-based Waterford company which makes out well whenever it can get legislators to purchase its product in bulk. Is this good use of Indiana taxpayer dollars? I doubt it. If I were an Indiana voter and taxpayer, I think I’d seriously question the aims of any Pre-K program, and I think I’d want my tiny humans to be interacting with real live humans, not software.