The New Kindergarten
October 15, 2008
Douglas J. Besharov and Douglas M. Call
In the new Wilson Quarterly, the University of Maryland's Douglas Besharov and Douglas Call have published an important challenge to the misguided clamor for "universal pre-school." Their key point--and it's powerful--is that most pre-school youngsters already have access to sundry pre-K programs and funding mechanisms both public and private. There's no sound reason except pure politics to launch a big and costly new universal program that confers a needless windfall on many families, fails to rectify (indeed, will likely replicate) the shortcomings of present-day programs, and delivers too little by way of intensive intervention to do much good for the kids who need it most. Not to mention that most pre-K effects (such as they are) fade during the elementary grades. As they say, "Universal pre-K might be a boon to the middle class...but it would still leave unmet the much more serious needs of low-income children." Read it here. And if this topic interests you, also make sure to have a look at Bruce Fuller's fine book, Standardized Childhood: The Political and Cultural Struggle Over Early Education.