18th 2009
Universal Preschool Promises Like Harold Hill’s Shiny New Trombones

Posted under Early Childhood & Independence Institute & Parents & Preschool & reading & Research

I was never really big into the whole preschool thing. My parents decided not to enroll me anywhere before kindergarten. So maybe I’m biased a little bit, but the piece “Does Universal Preschool Improve Learning? Lessons from Georgia and Oklahoma” by Lindsey Burke of the Heritage Foundation really shoots holes in many of the arguments for expanding early childhood education.

Apparently, the idea that universal preschool gives kids an accelerated start into improved learning just doesn’t bear out on any large scale. Especially when you look at the Sooner State (and I think you ought to look at it sooner rather than later):

More than a decade after offering students uni­versal preschool, neither Oklahoma nor Georgia has shown impressive progress in students’ academic achievement, as measured by the National Assess­ment of Educational Progress. In fact, in Oklahoma, fourth-grade reading test scores have declined since 1998 when the state first implemented universal preschool.

Say what? Well, I guess you shouldn’t be too surprised — if you’ve been following what I say for any length of time. Like several months ago, when I pointed out what the brilliant Krista Kafer said about the overblown promises of government preschool pushers. They may not be trying to sell us shiny trombones and gold-striped uniforms for a new boys’ band, like the famous fictional Professor Harold Hill, but the purveyors of universal preschool utopia will be at least as hard-pressed to deliver the goods.

If you find this topic really interesting, you may want to check out the new book Reroute the Preschool Juggernaut by Checker Finn.


2 Responses to “Universal Preschool Promises Like Harold Hill’s Shiny New Trombones”

  1. Mary Renstrom on 18 May 2009 at 12:24 pm #

    Fantastic! I’m so glad that this issue is finally getting some attention. When Ritter was proposing universal public pre-school a while back, there wasn’t a word being said against it, so I wrote an editorial myself and sent it to the Denver Post. I must have hit the mark because it generated some very passionate responses — including a counter-editorial from two academic researches in another state. This is more than just a debate about the academic success of our children. It is really about who will raise the children — the parents or the state?

  2. Ben on 18 May 2009 at 12:41 pm #

    Thanks, Mary. You really hit on the core of the issue.

    I should add to Eddie’s post that there is no magical Hollywood ending to rescue the universal preschool folks like Harold Hill in The Music Man. Let’s continue to stand up for the rights of parents, and be smart about how we do it.

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