Those pushing for universal PreK education are citing as evidence for their cause a study demonstrating the large vocabulary gap between low- and high- incomes two year olds. Yes, the government must fund universal PreK.
Two year olds who live in high-income families have larger vocabularies than do those who live in low-income families. Those low-income two year olds are doomed to a life of misery and poverty.
This is the stuff of "the preschool fairy tale," according to the William E. Simon Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, Kay S. Hymowitz. In her article in Time magazine, Hymowitz, notes:
- While researchers have found a few high quality programs that do yield some benefits, they haven't discovered anything indicating that universal PreK will bridge the gap.
- In fact, the research inadvertently demonstrates that it is extremely difficult for the government to compensate for family breakdown. Those in poverty oftentimes live in chaotic homes where children go through many "transitions" (e.g., disappearing fathers, new stepparents who frequently leave for other relationships, and stepsiblings and step-grandparents who are just passing through). In transitions like these, parents are probably more preoccupied with picking up the pieces of their own lives than with enriching their children's vocabulary. The more transitions children experience (boys in particular), the worse their educational outcomes.
Parents--not formal education--make most of the difference for young children's readiness for school as well as for success once they get there. This finding is nothing new, of course. Decades ago, the sociologist James Coleman's research indicated as much (see especially pages 109-113).
For those who believe in the PreK fairy tale, however, massive government intervention in PreK programs will compensate for or change parents who are not or cannot be fully invested in their children's development and education. All it requires, after the government takes its cut, is to tax the rich and redistribute the proceeds to the poor in the form of yet another entitlement program.
Sorry, The Motley Monk notes. To this point, the facts continue to suggest that this emperor is naked. Universal PreK is a thinly-veiled, government-sponsored, and unsurprisingly expensive form of daycare.
Let the discussion begin...
To read The New York Times' article touting PreK research, click on the following link:
To read Kay Hymowitz's article in Time magazine, click on the following link:
"Universal Pre-K Won't Solve Vocabulary Gap (Or Inequality)."
To read James Coleman's research, click on the following link: