The Sandbox Investment: The Preschool Movement and Kids-First Politics

David L. Kirp
Harvard University Press
Forthcoming, August 2007

The good folks at Harvard University Press are sinking a lot of energy and resources into promoting this defense of pre-school education. And why not? With the interest level in pre-K education rising, they stand to sell a lot of copies. But before you buy yours, be aware of what you're getting. First, Kirp, a respected policy analyst, is clearly convinced that pre-K education for all is a policy idea whose time has come. He makes this case in the book's first four chapters by examining the research to date on this topic (from neuroscience to the Perry study, and from economic analyses to case studies). Though he does a good job surveying what's been done, he has little patience for critics of that research, clumping them as conservative political ideologues looking to preempt another big-government program. To be fair, Kirp doesn't believe all is right in the pre-K world--he's especially critical of child care programs masquerading as pre-K programs--but skeptics of universal pre-K reading this aren't likely to change their stripes. The second half of the book, however, will be of interest to anyone involved in education policy, and the pre-K battle in particular. Kirp has pieced together how foundations (Packard and Pew), politicians (Jim Hunt and Zell Miller), and states (Oklahoma and Georgia, among others) decided to take on this issue, how they launched their campaigns, where they succeeded and where they failed. It's an intelligent, fairly balanced look at the inside-world of public policy that will serve as a guide for those in the business, and an eye-opener for those on the outside who think that politics don't matter. The book won't be out until August, but you can still pack it into your beach reading bag then. This well-written policy/journalism work deserves its spot--if only for the final four chapters. Read more about it here.

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