It’s common knowledge that most brain growth occurs before children reach the age of kindergarten, which is why preschool is so important.
Just as most industrialized countries provide free, high-quality preschool for 3-, 4- and 5-year- olds, regardless of family income, so every toddler in the U.S. should have the opportunity to attend a high-quality, free preschool.
In the U.K., Luxembourg and the Netherlands virtually all 4-year-olds go to public school; recent reports also indicate that 70 percent of German, Danish and Greek 4-year-olds go to public school, in addition to over 90 percent of 4- and 5-year-olds in France, Italy and Spain.
The picture in the U.S. is different. Sadly, as President Obama observed in his State of the Union address, “Today, fewer than three in ten 4-year-olds are enrolled in a high-quality preschool program. Most middle-class parents can’t afford a few hundred bucks a week for private preschool. And for poor kids who need help the most, the lack of access to preschool education can shadow them for the rest of their lives.”
The White House pointed out that at-risk kids who don’t go to preschool are:
• 25 percent more likely to drop out of school
• 60 percent more likely not to attend college
• 70 percent more likely to be arrested for a violent crime
Seen another way, poor children are behind from the beginning, both educationally and linguistically. Parents with professional jobs speak about 2,100 words an hour to toddlers, while those in poverty about 600, according to a study by Betty Hart and Todd Risley. The study says, “Between professional and welfare parents, there was a difference of almost 1,500 words spoken per hour.”
It’s called “the vocabulary gap,” and the failure to close that gap can lead to an achievement gap. This can lead to dropping out of school, and ongoing consequences like unemployment and involvement in crime.
Following his push for free, universal preschool in the State of the Union address, President Obama traveled to Atlanta last week to push his plan for universal early education. The proposal received great fanfare, and for good reason.
But not everyone agrees.
Here Are 5 Ridiculous Responses To Obama’s Universal Preschool Plan
* After listening to Obama’s speech, House Speaker John Boehner declared flatly on the next day that the federal government getting involved in early childhood education is a “good way to screw it up.”
* “It just doesn’t make any sense,” said Andrew J. Coulson, the director of the center for educational freedom at the Cato Institute, a libertarian group. “Why would you want to very expensively expand the programs like this if the evidence of effectiveness is not really sound?”
* Fox’s Steve Varney suggested that Obama proposed universal preschool so that the current 4-year-olds will vote for him “in the future.” According to Alternet, Varney said Obama’s preschool plan is another example of the president offering “all kinds of free stuff to the people who will vote for you in the future.”
* In another wonderful Fox News insight, Fox business host Gerri Willis characterized a program spending money to reduce high school dropout rates and teen pregnancies this way: “Preschool for everyone, are you kidding me? We don’t have the money for that! … This is just crazy talk and I think it’s immoral to put this across as something that’s actually doable, when it’s not.”
* Writing in The Daily Caller, Joy Pullman decries preschool as undermining family values. Her evidence: in 2010, Swedish researchers published an alarming study linking the country’s early childhood policies to a litany of evils: anxiety disorders, health problems, social neuroses, drops in learning, discipline problems, segregated labor markets, and more. Apparently, Sweden is becoming a social wreck. She warns President Obama to back off.
How depressing to read these responses to an idea that everyone should feel excited about. What do you think?
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