Sunday, February 23, 2014

What's Not To Love About Pre-K

One of the most recent ed-issues du jour is Pre-K. There's a great deal of political and public support for earlier childhood education these days, but I find much of it far more troubling than encouraging. While the data on the success of pre-K programs could be called mixed, there are a motivations behind the current push that indicate it should be feared and resisted.

Investment Opportunity

One of the appeals of Pre-K for investors is that there is no pre-existing institution that has to be bulldozed first.

Turning public education into an investment opportunity has been a long, arduous process. Discrediting public schools, buying up enough political clout to dismantle the public system, aggressive marketing to steal public ed "customers"-- it has taken a lot of time to break down a cherished American institution in order to create investment opportunities.

But the Pre-K landscape is only occupied by a handful of relative lightweights. It's the difference between building your new Mega-Mart on an empty lot and having to condemn and clear a residential neighborhood. Easy pickings!

Brand Extension

Yes, I see what you did there. We've stopped calling it Pre-School because that would indicate that it isn't going actually going to be school. But that's not where the push is going.

Instead, we have politicians deciding that since Kindergartner's are having trouble meeting the developmentally inappropriate standards of CCSS, the problem must be that they aren't "ready" for kindergarten. So we have the spectacle of people seriously suggesting that what four-year-olds need is some rigorous instruction, and of course THAT means that we'll need to give those four-year-olds standardized tests in order to evaluate how well the program is going.

It's like some sort of unholy alliance between people who won't be happy until they're selling eduproduct to every child in this country and people who won't be happy until we've made certain that no child in this country is ever wasting time playing and enjoying life.

More Pipeline

The Big Data machine needs more data. Right now we can only plug your child in when she reaches age five. Oh, but if we could only get our hands on those children sooner. Even a year sooner would be an improvement. Pre-K programs will allow more data collection and fatter file for each child.

Don't you want to know what career your four-year-old is best suited for? Don't you want to be certain that your four-year-old is on track for college? The let us add another link to the Big Data Pipeline.

There's no question that, done correctly, Pre-K can be a Good Thing. Anecdotally, I tell friends who are obsessing over it that I could never look at my eleventh grade classroom and tell you which students had pre-school and which did not. But, still, putting a small child in a rich environment to play and socialize and learn a few things couldn't hurt.

However, I'm convinced that a vast number of the people currently pushing Pre-K have no intention whatsoever of doing things right. Instead, what many politicians and thought leaders and hedgucators are supporting is an extension of CCSS/reformy stuff baloney to four-year-olds.

So support Pre-K if you wish, but be damn sure that the people you're agreeing with are people you are actually agreeing with.


  1. My son did not do well in preschool. When he was 3, I had to pull him out after a month of high anxiety, crying to the point of soaking his pajamas, and screaming not to leave him there--all this from a normally happy kid. We tried again when he was 4, and I pulled him out a month before the end of the year because I was tired of seeing him become more withdrawn and sad. He hated school, and all these years later, he still hates school. I think of him when I hear of these preschool pushes and wonder what will happen to kids like him.

  2. "When Education Goes Wrong: Taking Creativity and Play Out of Learning"
    ~ Dr. Nancy Carlsson-Paige

  3. Peter this is EXACTLY what is happening in Seattle. We have a very gung-ho City Councilmember (plus the Mayor) who passed a resolution for a levy to be on our November ballot that commits the city to preschool for all (or as many as they can afford). From there it is snowballing and our district seems to be going along with it.

    This councilman took 40 people (!) on a "mission study" to Boston, Jersey City and D.C. in March to look at what those cities are doing for preschool. I got - via public disclosure - e-mails among Seattle Schools staff (they sent 4 people plus a school board member) that show they were looking for the money to go on this junket in every single pot of money. Our own finance manager told them that it was possible to expand the district's deficit for them to go on the trip!

    I love preschool but I believe the goal is not learning thru play but a more rigid program (it would be a 6-hour preschool day) AND would allow them to start their data collection machine sooner.

    Naturally, there is going to be a fight over this preschool item on the ballot but I'm hopeful Seattle voters will be (rightly) suspicious of this.