Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Who benefits from preschool?

I've been mulling this off and on since yesterday, when I discovered that nearly all of the educational benefits from Perry Preschool seen in teenagers are in girls. Perry Boys did better than the control group in other areas (not receiving social services as an adult, not being arrested, and owning their own home at age 27), but virtually all the educational benefits are to girls, and they showed a greater income increase, too. Then yesterday, I noted that a recent study on home visits for newborns showed an effect on arrests for girls but not for boys.

If Perry Preschool results are really valid, then it tells us that our standard way of raising poor black kids in Ypsilanti in the early 1960s damaged girls educationally and boys socially. If we gave them a rich kid's preschool, the girls became better students, and the boys became better integrated into the wider society.

I flippantly said yesterday that this meant we should restrict state preschool to girls, since we get more benefit from it, but the value of turning potential petty criminals into productive members of society is pretty worthwhile, too. Though yesterday's study of in-home visits makes one wonder about that, too.

But it may be that we need different curricula for boys and girls. Maybe we should emphasize things important to education for girls and socialization for boys, because that's where they seem to benefit. Or maybe we should emphasize socialization for girls and education for boys, since that's where they seem to need the most help. I don't know.

But before that, we have to ask how alike are the standard child-rearing practices in Ypsilanti in 1960 and in state preschool neighborhoods now. Lots of things have changed in 50 years. Maybe that has. Maybe the feminist movement or the emphasis on reading to kids has had an effect.

I guess what we'd have to do is study the long-term effects of California state preschool on girls and boys. That must have been done. It's too obvious not to have been done. I guess I'll go look for it. If anybody knows offhand where it is, please let me know.

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