Books by Susan Muenchow

Released: Nov. 4, 1992

Who would think that a story of 25 years of bureaucratic struggle could be so interesting? Perhaps it's because the struggle is over Head Start, the preschool program born of the ideals of the War on Poverty and the activism of the civil-rights movement. Zigler (Psychology/Yale; Project Head Start—co-ed., 1979) was there at the beginning as a member of the Head Start planning committee and later as director of the Office of Child Development, which shaped Head Start. Coauthor Muenchow wrote a 1980 report on Head Start with Zigler and is now executive director of the Florida Children's Forum. Their story is one of shifting alliances, dedicated civil servants, political strategy, surprising heroes (Utah's Sen. Orrin Hatch), unsuspected villains (Vice-President Walter Mondale), and a community of parents and teachers who slowly gathered strength and political sophistication until President Bush recently asked Congress for a $600 million increase in Head Start's budget. What sets Head Start apart from other preschool programs that serve disadvantaged communities is its health-check program- -entering four- and five-year-olds receive medical and dental assessments and have their immunizations brought up to date—and its insistence on direct parental involvement in the program. Although evaluation efforts have been problematical—even Zigler suggests that the improved health of the Head Start children rather than the enriched curriculum may be responsible for their improved performance in school—Head Start is both a real and a perceived success. Still fighting to upgrade the program, the authors offer a final chapter advocating how Head Start can be modified (by increasing salaries and social and health services) and even expanded (by opening the program to younger children) to support suggested welfare reforms. A case study in how determination, dedication, and a good cause can bring about social and educational innovation. Read full book review >