Without the "capital development" concerns of people like David Brooks, that would be The Pre-School Issue in the header.
The meticulous research of Goldin and Katz is complemented by a report from James Heckman of the University of Chicago. Using his own research, Heckman also concludes that high school graduation rates peaked in the U.S. in the late 1960s, at about 80 percent. Since then they have declined.
It would seem logical that he would follow up with questions about what’s going on in the current school system within the current states’ compulsory attendance ages that is causing this decline? Kindergarten was just making headway in the 60’s and the success (or not) of that extra year in school wasn’t apparent in school graduation rates.
Instead, Brooks, follows up the 40 year "family deterioration" concept with this:
Heckman points out that big gaps in educational attainment are present at age 5. Some children are bathed in an atmosphere that promotes human capital development and, increasingly, more are not. By 5, it is possible to predict, with depressing accuracy, who will complete high school and college and who won’t.
Spunky makes this fine point: We’ve moved on from "It takes a village to raise a child" to "It takes the state to develop human capital."
What I also find disturbing and have seen with continual steadfastness in other universal preschool promotional articles, political soundbites and within many schools themselves is the very idea that 5 year olds can be and should be judged "with depressing accuracy" for the rest of their school age life (if not longer).
I think that very assumption of "accuracy" by teachers and staff along with classmates smelling blood marks a very young child. I think that because I’ve seen some excited, happy 5 year olds start school anticipating the very joy of learning as they knew it in a non-institutional manner. Then those marked ones start following the path laid out for them in the schools. Failure.
The Chicago Tribune article Sandbox Cum Laude [July 16, 2006 and placed in the business section] starts out with this concerning the 2006 Preschool for All initiative:
Laurence Hadjas brings a sense of style to her state-funded pre-kindergarten class at the Ray School in Hyde Park . Her black hair is pushed back with sunglasses, and a pink polo shirt tops her black and cream capris. In the manner of the French woman that she is-she is also half-Algerian-she wears a pink silk print scarf around her neck. A Bach cantata plays in the background. n Some of Hadjas’ students sit at an art table, making necklaces from wooden spools. Though that’s not unlike what 3- and 4-year-olds were doing half a century ago, the kids themselves aren’t the same.
Some have emotional problems; others may not be able to keep up with the newly toughened academic demands of kindergarten. Many don’t speak English at home. A poster at the front of the classroom lists Korean, Japanese, Spanish, Urdu, Chinese, Ojibwa, Arabic and Tagalog among the languages spoken in the class, where two separate groups of children meet for 2 hours a day.
This spotlighted class of 3 and 4 year olds were already labeled "at risk". Will that label ever be stamped OFF their little souls?
But just for the record, I should also mention that I’ve seen kids that were not marked at 5, but were very bright and questioning drop out of school (with or without accurate reporting) from sheer boredom and frustration.
Either way, it’s not a good thing and what David Brooks (or Senator Obama) are pushing is not geared to little ones learning and thriving.