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The War On Poverty: The Start Of The Head Start Program

1698 words - 7 pages

In January of 1964 Lyndon B. Johnson declared “war on poverty” in a state of the union speech. His dream for a better America came with the greatest prosperity of the post war years. The nations GNP was up, unemployment was down and disposable personal income was at an all-time high. As the baby boom generation aged more American’s than ever would enter the work force and it was imperative that the county develop some a plan for its growing nation. As part of Johnsons war on poverty he create the idea of a “great society” in which ground rules where laid out for programs that the president was sure would help the nation. Johnsons first ever reference to the great society came in a speech directed toward students at the Ohio University in Athens where he proudly boasted “and with your courage and with your compassion and your desire, we will build the great society where no child will go unfed, and no youngster will go unschooled”. Johnson was dedicated to this ideal of a new society, together with Sargent Shriver, he worked on developing a committee of civil rights activist. He also arraigned a team of sociologist, psychologist and pediatricians including pediatrician Dr. Robert Cooke of John Hopkins University. Johnson and his crew worked rigorously to develop a program to help America’s children overcome the obstacle of poverty. The name head start was chosen as a representation of the gap that is ever present between middle class and lower class children academically and the ideal that this program would give underprivileged children a much needed head start on education and over all wellbeing.
The announcement was given in the spring of 1965 that an official head start program had been developed and was going to be given a trial period of 8 weeks over the summer of 1965. The program was designed for low income families with children entering school that fall and was intended to offer services in the medical, dental, education and mental health fields. Children who would be attending head start would be coming from households that would be significantly disadvantaged over their peers and it was thought that a program like head start could help close the educational gap between children from various economic levels.
Head start would focus on an array of categories intended to promote overall health and wellbeing of children living in poverty, not only was education a focus but also immunization, nutrition, diet and exercise, reading, writing, and speech. Children who were struggling would be entitled to a tutor, or other educational resources. Children who were not healthy would receive health care and immunization. Ultimately the program was designed as an early intervention to remedy some of the problems disadvantaged children often face.
The very first head start program began as a summer program lasting only eight weeks, and was designed as a ‘catch up’ program for disadvantaged children. The intention of head start was to give these...

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