The preschool non sequitur

February 14, 2014

Brandon Dutcher

“The passion of government pre-K advocates is evident,” Andrew J. Coulson correctly notes, “and no doubt they truly wish to help children, but their proposed solutions are based on a non sequitur.”

The central premises of government pre-K advocates are that: (1) Modern neuroscience shows that early learning is important; and (2) One or two highly intensive 1960s early-education programs serving a few dozen or a few score children (particularly one called “High Scope/Perry”) had significant and lasting benefits. From these premises, advocates jump to the conclusion that expanding federal and state government provision of pre-K will yield significant, lasting benefits for the children served and society at large. That conclusion simply does not follow.

Indeed, Coulson says, “if we knew how a government pre-K program could be made to only replicate the effective models, we’d be doing it by now.” But we’re not — even in Oklahoma. In a new article in National Affairs (“The Dubious Promise of Universal Preschool”), George Mason University professors David J. Armor and Sonia Sousa examine “the most rigorous studies conducted to date on the effectiveness of preschool programs. These studies do not find preschool to be effective in increasing long-term cognitive or social and emotional outcomes.”

Moreover, as Darcy Olsen (author of the OCPA report “Blueprint for a Nanny State”) writes this week in USA Today, “Most American children are not needy, and leaving their homes can be a costly trade-off.