- iHaveNet.com: Education
by Mary Sanchez
Compared to our counterparts in the developed world, the United States is a wealthy nation of dummies and dropouts. A few years ago, American 15-year-olds were ranked 17th in science and an unimpressive 25th in math when compared with their peers in other countries.
Does it have to be this way? Of course not. In fact, for decades, experts in early-childhood education have argued that a relatively direct way to improve school achievement is to enroll all children in preschool.
President Obama made a pitch for just such a program in his State of the Union Address, but he might as well have requested the moon, lassoed and gift-boxed.
Obama's plan is to get states to expand offerings for prekindergarten through federal matching dollars, incentives and grants. Such programs have long been linked to improved high school graduation rates. Yet only 28 percent of America's 4-year-olds were enrolled in a state-funded preschool program in the 2010-2011 school year, according to the
Note that Obama didn't say preschool attendance should be mandatory. Big Brother is not issuing a mandate to gather up all the 3- and 4-year-olds and march them off to classrooms for indoctrination. But the family values crowd won't believe that for a minute. For decades, they have promoted the idea that government-sponsored early-childhood education is a threat to family, faith and civilization. They are not going to let Obama's program get through
On the right, proposals to expand preschool programs have long been met with twisted conspiracy theorizing about how the rights of parents will be undercut. As historian Rick Perlstein noted recently in The Nation magazine, President Richard Nixon bowed pressure from a well-orchestrated letter-writing campaign by evangelical and fundamentalist Christians in 1971 and vetoed popular, bipartisan legislation that would have created preschool programs. In his veto letter, Nixon claimed the bill would have promoted "communal approaches to child rearing over against the family-centered approach."
The same rationale will be wheeled out to oppose Obama's new initiative. Unfortunately, bizarre attitudes like this are ingrained in the dysfunctional approach America takes to education in general. We view it as a birthright lottery. Children lucky enough to be born to better-educated, middle-class parents get the best slots in the best-performing schools. Other children ... well, they attend different schools.
Shortly after Obama fleshed out the plan in an appearance at an early-learning center in Georgia, House Speaker John Boehner slammed it, saying federal involvement in such schooling was "a good way to screw it up." Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.) argued that more research was needed to determine if programs such as
The research has been done. A 2009 policy paper by the
In other words, if the program is for the poor kids, a lower-quality program is too often deemed good enough. Make a program available to everyone's kids and its quality improves. Other research has shown that expanding prekindergarten offerings would benefit children at all class levels.
For decades, families with the resources to do so have solved the problem of poor school quality simply by moving to another area with better schools. This "every child for him- or herself" approach to education has resulted in even greater disparities in school quality, and it must not be allowed to undermine this latest proposal.
We all pay for the costs of not educating all children well. America needs the brainpower, talents and labor of all its children. Savvy business owners know that to get the most out of a workforce, you invest in it at all levels -- not just in management but in the worker bees as well.
The business of running a nation is no different. It's time to invest.
- A Crash Course on Reality
- College Majors That Don't Pay Off
- Is The New GED Too Tough?
- D-Day is Dumb Day for Too Many
- Time to Get Serious About Sexual Assault on Campuses
- The Peculiar Madness of 'Trigger Warnings'
- Trigger Warnings: Maya Angelou's Uncomfortable Facts and Truths
- The End of Affirmative Action
- Race and College Admission: A Volatile Issue
- Affirmative Action Finds Brave Defense in Sotomayor's Dissent
- The High Stakes of High-Stakes Standardized Testing
- Defending Kwasi Enin: A High Achiever
- The ABC's of School Choice
- College Laundry 101: Understanding the Basics
- Changes to SAT will Even Out Playing Field
- Liberal Students have a Funny Definition of 'Diversity'
- Asphyxiating Education
- Liberal Arts: An Endangered Species Up in Arms
- School for Scandal
- A Future Stuck in the Pipeline
- Financial Aid Group Calls on Feds to Shore Up Lending to Parents
- Boys in the Back of the Class
- An Education Reform That Will Work
- Income-Based Diversity Push Falls Short at Elite Colleges
- You Can't Fix Education by Lowering the Bar
- The New American Helots
- The Commencement Address That Won't Be Given
- College, Loans and the Road to Success
- Avoid 5 Assumptions About College Financial Aid
- Engagement Is Key to Community College Success
- Computer Science Transitions From Elective to Requirement
- Future in Politics Less Desirable Among Today's Pre-Law Students
- College Student Leaders Divided on Benefits of Student Government
- 6 Resume Writing Tips for Business School Grads
- LinkedIn Transforms Job Search for M.B.A. Graduates
- Some Teens Start College Work Early Via Dual Enrollment
- How to Get In: Georgia Institute of Technology College of Management
- How to Get In: Purdue University Krannert School of Management
- How to Get In: Tulane University A. B. Freeman School of Business
- How to Get In: University of Texas-Austin McCombs School of Business
- More Schools Debut Tuition Guarantee Programs
- New Three-Year Degree Programs Trim College Costs
- Free Online Classes May MBA Students
Article: Copyright ©, Tribune Media Services.
"An Education Reform That Will Work"