With P-20 education, the government wants to raise your children

Michigan schools that fail in their basic mission are taking interest in the ‘Whole Child.’ Why?

If you don’t feel like parenting your child, there’s good news in Michigan: The government is offering to do it for you.

Gone are the days of the K-12 system where the government only gets to educate your children from ages 5-18. Under the new P-20 system, you no longer have to feed, nurture, or even provide tender loving care for your child. The government will do that for you.

‘P’ stands for prenatal and ‘20’ refers to years of age. These are the years the state education system will feed, educate, and provide health services for its children — I mean, your children — for free! Or through hard-earned taxpayer dollars.

The Michigan Department of Education “believes caring for, supporting, and educating the Whole Child is an essential part of promoting academic achievement and excellence throughout the P-20 system,” according to the department’s Whole Child Definition webpage. “Having a common definition and understanding of the Whole Child sets the stage for action.”

The project of defining, understanding, and subjecting children to government oversight goes back to an Obama-era project to institute P-20 longitudinal databases in every state. That campaign spread to most states before igniting a parents’ backlash against data mining and tracking of children. Several states restricted the use of P-20 studies as a result.

But the idea did not go away, and Michigan now appears to be expanding it beyond its original mission of gathering intelligence on toddlers.The state’s Department of Education has the following goals:

  • “Full implementation of all requirements of the National School Lunch Program meal patterns, regulations, including school breakfast, lunch, and afterschool snacks and supper.
  • “Encourage eligible schools to participate in Community Eligibility Provision.
  • “Encourage access to school health services via expansion for school nursing, school mental health, and school-based health centers.
  • “Expand specific coordinated P-20 partnerships and initiatives with other state, local, and private agencies with proven evidence-based practices, with the goal of expanding access to coordinated service programs and family advocacy supports. Priority given to programs proven to increase attendance, positive behaviors, and improved coursework.”

These goals have appeared at other times in history.

“We must remove children from the crude influence of their families,” the First Congress of Bolshevik Workers said in 1918. “We must take them over, and to speak frankly, nationalize them. From the first days of their lives they will be under the healthy influence of children’s nurseries and schools.”

Friedrich Engels had the same idea more than 70 years earlier.

“Education of all children, from the moment they can leave their mother’s care, in national establishments at national cost,” Engels wrote in his 1847 book The Principles of Communism.

The modern version of this concept, popularized in America by Hillary Clinton, is “It takes a village to raise a child.”

The latest version is P-20 education.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s support for a P-20 education system in Michigan seems like a win for parents who approve of how the government is handling K-12 education.

If there are any such parents, they may be encouraged to know that P-20 fits into a large statewide pattern of challenging bourgeois dogmas about family, gender, addition and subtraction. Some recent evidence:

No parents needed. In January, the Michigan Democratic Party wrote, in a since-deleted tweet, “The purpose of public education in public schools is not to teach kids only what parents want them to be taught. It is to teach them what society needs them to know. The client of the public school is not the parent, but the entire community, the public.”

Gender ideology. “I brought a lawsuit on behalf of all the menstruating people in Michigan,” Whitmer said recently. It appears Whitmer believes menstruation is no longer just a function of women. And what of women who do not or no longer menstruate?

Secrecy. If the state’s child returns to your home and you have questions about what is being taught, you can always submit a Freedom of Information Act request — at a cost of $400,000. If you can’t afford that, Rochester Public Schools has a more reasonable price of $176,000. Or you can sue, as Carol Beth Litkouhi is doing. Some schools won’t turn over their curricula willingly. If your child attends one, reach out to the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation.

Valuable marketing skills. Kids learn by example. When the schools market a concept to parents that the public rejects, school districts change the window dressing and call it something else. For instance, when backlash grew over critical race theory and diversity, equity, and inclusion being taught in schools, the education system changed the name to “social emotional learning.”

School therapists and social workers. Intelligent magazine ranks Michigan’s education system 36th in the United States, an indication that schools would be better off focusing on their core competency. Why is the education system taking on mental health services, when children are already underperforming in some key education areas? Is this not a job for the state's multi-billion-dollar health department?

As a side note, it is legal in Michigan for children 14 years of age and older to receive mental health therapy for up to twelve sessions or four months without parents knowing. Why the secrecy? This makes it look as if the state doesn’t want parents to be aware of their children’s mental health.

Schools should teach reading, writing and arithmetic — not values or cultural views. And they should not become a health provider to the “Whole Child.”

Schools should not block parents from knowing what is going on with their children’s education and health care, and parents certainly shouldn’t have to sue to get access to taxpayer-funded course materials.

If you don't want the government to co-parent your children, now would be a good time to speak up.

Jamie A. Hope is assistant managing editor of Michigan Capitol Confidential. What's being taught at your Michigan public school? Tell her at

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.