We're not sure whether to cheer or jeer. As the Wall Street Journal's June Kronholz reports, the tutoring industry is setting its sights on the Barney set. Sylvan expects to enroll four-year-olds in each of its learning centers by winter; Kaplan's SCORE! centers already teach over 15,000 children from ages four to six. It's a growth industry, but is it a good idea? On the one hand, it's heartening to see parents ignore the dubious advice of take-it-slow child development experts like David Elkind of Tufts who suggests that "parents and teachers wait until a child is six or seven before reading lessons." Six or seven? Gadfly was reading War and Peace by then. On the other hand, this is one more indication of the out-of-control anxiety of middle-class parents, not to mention the "we'll do anything for money" stance of the tutoring firms. If only low-income kids could have access to this kind of help. Now that No Child Left Behind's "supplemental services" provision is starting to show promise, how about transforming Head Start into a mini-voucher for poor pre-K kids? No doubt the tutoring companies would be glad to have the business.
"Preschoolers' prep," by June Kronholz, Wall Street Journal, July 12, 2005 (subscription required)