Friday, October 2, 2009

My greatest fear for child development

My greatest fear in child development is that. because the groups lobbying for universal preschool believe people will vote to raise money for schools but not for "child care," it will be voted in as part of the K-12 system, so the curriculum (and everything else) will decided by people trained for K-12 rather than trained in ECE. I fear preschool will become just a new grade Pre-K in the K-12 system, with the curriculum being kindergarten lite, or maybe not even lite. They may push everything down a year. I can't wait to see 4 year olds bubbling in standardized tests.

This is a view put out in Standardized Childhood: The Political and Cultural Struggle over Early Education by Bruce Fuller, which is a fine book but depressing.

As you may guess, I come down strong on the ECE side. Kindergarten teachers I have met have different expectations and requirements of little kids differently than teachers at, say, a Reggio school. In my kid's kindergarten classroom, there were no blocks. 

But there are lots of cases where what is best for one person wouldn't work for a whole society. It may be possible for any one person to get a job, but it may at the same time not be possible for everyone to get a job. It may be best for a home gardener to grow tomatoes without chemicals, but it is not clear we can feed 6 billion people that way. Likewise, where it may be best for any particular kid to be in a Title 5 program rather than grade Pre-K, for most kids in universal preschool, the alternative to grade Pre-K is at best a Title 22 program, which range in quality from very good to horrendous, or staying home with mom, which is great if mom is talking to the kid all the time, but there are lots of moms from whom grade Pre-K is a great improvement. 

And then there is the idea of universal preschool. It seems clear from the research that good preschool helps poor kids a great deal more than rich kids. The incremental value of a Title 5 program to an average rich preschooler compared with what they have now is probably close to zero. So the logical public policy is spend our money on programs for poor kids. But if it's school, it has to be everybody, and it has to be everybody to get funded. So we're going to waste a third or half of our expenditures on universal preschool in order to be allowed to spend the 2/3 or half that is really important.

So I guess what I want to do is raise taxes enough to pay for Title 5 child care for about a quarter to half the kids in the state. And the dish ran away with the spoon.

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