Reason Writers Around Town: Shikha Dalmia and Lisa Snell on Universal Preschool

In The Wall Street Journal, Reason Foundation Senior Analyst Shikha Dalmia and Reason Foundation Education Policy Director Lisa Snell explain why we need to protect our kids from universal preschool.

Read all about it here.

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  • Elemenope||

    "Fill them pews people! Get 'em while they're young."

    "What, like the cigarette industry?"

    "Christ! If only we had their numbers."

  • Citizen Nothing||

    My wife's friends can't believe we're not already sniffing out preschools for our three-year-old twins. What the hell is wrong with people?

  • Citizen Nothing||

    I guess I should say, what the hell is wrong with my wife's friends?

  • lurker||

    Um, kids go to preschool at age 3 or 4, usually. What's weird about sniffing out preschools for a 3-year-old?

    Now, I know people who have shopped for preschools for their fetuses. That's weird.

  • Justen||

    An opt-in voucher program for preschools would be nice. Whatever else may be said about pre-school, it's a much more positive place for a kid to be while mom & dad are at work than a babysitter's house, plopped in front of a television with a cup full of sugar water.

    The article mentions that Obama should be focusing on K-12 if he wants to improve education; maybe they should read up on his policies. The preschool plan is only a small part of the sweeping education reforms he's been proposing and IIRC he's in favor of the voucher system.

  • Elemenope||

    Well, CN, keep in mind that in a two-income full-time household, you gotta put the kids *somewhere*. And since 40-gallon drums are considered cruel...

  • Elemenope||

    Now, I know people who have shopped for preschools for their fetuses. That's weird.

    Some people are just *optimistic*, I guess.

  • Citizen Nothing||

    My older sons went to preschool, and they turned out fine. But as El points out, that was due to our being a two-income household with a shortage of 40-gallon drums or closets with locks.
    But folks seem shocked when they learn that we just might not go the pre-school route with the twins. (My wife is currently staying home with them.)
    It's as if we'd said, well, that we were considering storing them in 40-gallon drums.

  • Kolohe||

    I totally buy the argument that these programs may be either not cost effective, or not very useful.

    But actively harmful?

    You know, if say the ONDCP or MADD cherrypicked a single study showing harm in the background of numerous other studies that did not - and made that the headline and the lede for their story - everyone would rightly call them out for their alarmist wankerism.

  • ||

    The real irony of this is that the Reason website illustration for this article is of Maggie Simpson having her pacifier taken away by a humorless objectivist teacher at the "Ayn Rand Pre-School" where they encouraged the kiddies to "find the pacifier within."

    Nothing funnier than unconscious self-parody! Thanks Shikha and Lisa for brightening an otherwise-dismal Friday.

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    The thrust of the article had pretty much nothing to do with the headline.

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    I don't think there is anything inherently wrong with pre-school per se, but universal, tax paid preschool sets up yet another government incentive that will skew personal choices.

    Not to mention ten billion dollars down the rat hole with nothing but green skidmarks in the federal wallet to show for it.

  • ||

    So what we need is a universal but optional "free" preschool that is available only for the kids of really shitty parents. That might take some clever marketing. Either that or a crack smoking/binge drinking room where the parents, make that parent, can hang out for 6 hours per day while their children are at the very least not being abused. Free admission with a WIC card?

  • Fluffy||

    The article doesn't address this, but if there's no statistical evidence that universal preschool helps kids, why is there such a push for it? Why would Obama advocate for it?

    Could it be a combination of:

    1. Teacher's unions like it as a job creation program

    and

    2. It's seen as a way to provide child care to working women at taxpayer expense?

  • Paul||

    Why would Obama advocate for it?

    Because it's universal... and it's for children. Are there two words in the political vernacular that can be demagogued more?

  • Paul||

    2. It's seen as a way to provide child care to working women at taxpayer expense?

    Speaking for myself, I have no problem paying child care for poor women. Over my dead body will I pay child care for Bill Gates.

  • Gegs||

    Eh. This strikes me as typically dubious policy wonkery:

    (1) In principle, we oppose universal pre-school. (I'm with you.)

    (2) Therefore, pre-school is bad.

    I'm against universal healthcare, but I still go to the doctor.

    I'm especially skeptical of the studies that rely on aggregate indicators like test scores. Some schools and parents suck so badly, they bring the average down.

    Didn't seem to hurt my kids to send them off for a few hours a day to color, play, learn social skills, reinforce some learning about numbers and letters, and learn some fun early lessons about science and the like.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Universally available pre-school would be a good thing on balance. Mandatory pre-school, not so much.

  • Neu Mejican||

    For an alternative view on the evidence


    Benefits and costs of investments in preschool education: Evidence from the Child-Parent Centers and related programs

    Judy A. Temple and Arthur J. Reynolds
    Economics of Education Review
    Volume 26, Issue 1, February 2007, Pages 126-144
    The Economics of Early Childhood Education

    ...Depending on the assumptions made, our results indicate that the benefit-cost ratio for the preschool program offered by the Child-Parent Centers ranges from $5.98-$10.15. We find strong evidence that the consistently positive economic returns of high-quality preschool programs exceed most other educational interventions, especially those that begin during the school-age years such as reduced class sizes in the elementary grades, grade retention, and youth job training.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Also,
    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/312/5782/1900

    Investing in disadvantaged young children is a rare public policy initiative that promotes fairness and social justice and at the same time promotes productivity in the economy and in society at large. Early interventions targeted toward disadvantaged children have much higher returns than later interventions such as reduced pupil-teacher ratios, public job training, convict rehabilitation programs, tuition subsidies, or expenditure on police. At current levels of resources, society overinvests in remedial skill investments at later ages and underinvests in the early years.

    Although investments in older disadvantaged individuals realize relatively less return overall, such investments are still clearly beneficial. Indeed, the advantages gained from effective early interventions are sustained best when they are followed by continued high-quality learning experiences. The technology of skill formation shows that the returns on school investment and postschool investment are higher for persons with higher ability, where ability is formed in the early years. Stated simply, early investments must be followed by later investments if maximum value is to be realized.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Of course, it matters how you implement preschool and what goes on at the preschool...

    A recent, nicely done analysis...(2008)

    The provision of good quality preschool education from 3 years of age is likely to produce further benefits, particularly when the preschool center works closely with parents. Studies of successful preschools by Siraj-Blatchford et al. (2003) indicate that preschools that promote activities for parents and children to engage in together are likely to be most beneficial for young children, and this has implications for strategies to help disadvantaged children start school with more academic skills and maintain their educational achievement.

    http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/cgi-bin/fulltext/119394046/HTMLSTART

  • Elemenope||

    I like you, NM. You're "nuanced". :)

  • Neu Mejican||

    A source for more research on this topic

    http://nieer.org/docs/index.php?DocID=120

    And an interesting report that looks at preschool's effect on economic development at a state level.

    http://www.ced.org/docs/report/report_prek_bartik_2006technical.pdf

    LMNOP,
    Nuanced... a nice compliment.

    I think I deserve a beer...

  • ||

    Obama does not support vouchers for preschool.

    The "high-quality programs he talks about are monopoly public-school providers. These preschool advocates pay "lip-service" to public-private partnerships but create regulations that make it impossible for private providers to participate. Requirements for pre-school teacher salaries to meet the average K-12 teacher salary; BA degrees with teacher credentials, and many other regulations ensure that nonprofit and for-profit preschools are unlikely to qualify. Universal preschool diminishes the choices available to families. Montessori, parent-co-op and church-preschools do not qualify and cannot compete with "free."

    We already have near universal preschool in the private, non-profit, and government sector. More than 70 percent of kids go to preschool. We do not need a new government program.

    Obama is proposing a $10 billion early education plan as part of an $18 billion education plan--hardly a small part.

    I know the headline is over the top. But as you all know, writers have zero control over headlines.

    Anyway, I'm going on the radio in Seattle David Boze show at 3:30 Pacific. here.

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    NM, the studies that indicate the kind of gains you suggest are extrapolated from one study that involved massive intervention into the lives of a very few kids.

    Lisa Snell and Reason has debunked all of this nonsense and the articles and policy studies are available right here at Reason.com

    Perfect example of how the advocates twist the truth is right in the WSJ article where Heckler states flat out that

    Advocates and supporters of universal preschool often use existing research for purely political purposes, says James Heckman, a University of Chicago Noble laureate in economics whose work Mr. Obama and preschool activists routinely cite. But the solid evidence for the effectiveness of early interventions is limited to those conducted on disadvantaged populations.



    Head Start and Education Week both have studied universal preschool and have found that any gains vanish by 2nd or 3rd grade. Both of these organizations have a specific policy axe to grind, so it is pretty certain that they would prefer to have learned that for every buck sucked out of your wallet society gets a ten dollar return.

    Bottom line is there is no study that shows that pre-school has any lasting benefit whether it is Head Start or Universal Preschool in any of the states that have implemented it.

    And there is that ten billion dollars to think about. Over and over and over.

  • ||

    "2. It's seen as a way to provide child care to working women at taxpayer expense?"

    Bingo

  • Neu Mejican||

    TWC,

    Lisa Snell and Reason has debunked all of this nonsense and the articles and policy studies are available right here at Reason.com

    Perfect example of how the advocates twist the truth


    I think your irony meter is on the blink.

    FWIW, the studies I linked to are studies themselves, or meta-analyzes of multiple studies... not extrapolations from a single study.

  • ||

    If one may liken the existing public school system to a building, when said building is unfit for human habitation - falling to bits and infested with all manner of vermin - it is not the time to build a new addition along the same lines and cram more people into it.

    If public education was merely mediocre, there might be an argument for universal preschool.

  • Neu Mejican||

    TWC,

    Bottom line is there is no study that shows that pre-school has any lasting benefit whether it is Head Start or Universal Preschool in any of the states that have implemented it.

    Meaning you have done a systematic review of the question and looked at all the thousands of studies on the topic?

    Can you give me a link to your methods section and a quick summary of your findings?

  • Neu Mejican||

    TWC,

    But the solid evidence for the effectiveness of early interventions is limited to those conducted on disadvantaged populations.

    Except when its not limited to disadvantaged populations, of course.

    Overall, the results of this study add to the evidence that high quality public preschool education can improve learning and development on a large scale for both targeted and general populations. Although these results cannot be safely extrapolated to state programs with weaker standards, these states offer models that others could follow. As noted earlier, effects were similar in size to those found in the Chicago-Child Parent Centers study.

    Five State Prekindergarten Study

    http://nieer.org/pdf/MultiState1007.pdf

    Of course this is a think-tank study.
    Like the one from Reason, you should take into consideration the potential bias that an advocacy group might bring to a study.

  • GG||

    IIRC he's in favor of the voucher system.

    No he's not:

    Response to Misleading Reports Concerning Senator Obama's Position on Vouchers

    These misleading reports are particularly disturbing given that Senator Obama has laid out the most comprehensive education agenda of any candidate in this race - an agenda that does not include vouchers, in any shape or form.



    6-Year-Old 4-Year-Old Stares Down Bottomless Abyss Of Formal Schooling

  • SIV||

    Neu,

    I think Lisa Snell is Mrs. TWC. Looks like she has done a bit of work on this stuff

  • ||

    Obama should be focusing on K-12 ending the unconstitutional federal involvement in education if he wants to improve education;

    Fixed.

  • GG||

    I wonder what ever happened to this proposal, which AZ Gov. Janet Napolitano attempted to foist upon The Children™ back in '05:

    Plan adds 6 weeks to school year
    Napolitano's panel also proposes more hours a day in class

    The proposal being announced this morning in Washington, D.C., seeks a 210-day school year across the United States...

    But that's not all: The report by a national task force Napolitano co-chairs also wants a longer school day. It doesn't say specifically how long, but it refers to a chain of charter schools where students attend from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. - and half a day on Saturdays.



    Coming soon to a public school near you, no doubt, courtesy of your not so child-friendly Democrat-controlled Congress.

  • Elemenope||

    prolefeed --

    I've always wondered how far to take the principle that the Constitution is an end-in-itself. I agree that Federal interference in education (including that black beast, the Dept. of Education) is unconstitutional, but I am far *less* sure that by throwing education to the market, everything will be improved.

    Call it a lack of faith.

  • Neu Mejican||

    SIV,

    I think Lisa Snell is Mrs. TWC. Looks like she has done a bit of work on this stuff

    It appears that you are correct on that.

    Even without that piece of info, I hadn't expected to convince TWC of the possibility of a Reason.com employee being biased on the issue...I will lower my expectations further.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Regarding Ms TWC,

    Although a beautiful woman...

    Ms. Snell holds a Master of Arts in Communication from California State University, Fullerton.

    She has a Master's degree in Science communication...I am guessing she hasn't done that rigorous systematic review of the literature. But hey, maybe she has training in meta-analysis post-masters and I am wrong on that point.


    No offense intended TWC, but I will continue to be skeptical without further evidence presented.


  • ||

    I don't know WTF is wrong with Reason's website, but I've written the post three times now, and it won't post.

    I'm not having problems anywhere else so it has to be a Reason screw up.

  • Neu Mejican||

    From James Heckman:

    http://jenni.uchicago.edu/human-inequality/papers/inv-young-rep_all_2007-01-31b_mms.pdf

    "...Seventh, the economic returns to initial investments at early ages are high. The economic return to investment at older ages is lower. The technology of skill formation which we analyze in this essay suggests a strong skill multiplier effect of investment. Investment at an early age produces a high return through self-productivity and direct complementarity. Early investment in cognitive and noncognitive skills lowers the cost of later investment by making learning at later ages more efficient. The skill multiplier highlights the value of early investment. It also demonstrates that there is no trade-off between equity (targeting programs at disadvantaged families) and efficiency (getting the highest economic returns), provided that the investments are made at early ages. There is such a trade-off at later ages.

    Eighth, CES-complementarity of early with late investments implies that early investments must be followed up by later investments in order to be effective. Nothing in the new economics of human skill formation suggests that we should starve later educational and skill enhancement efforts. Our evidence suggests that a portfolio of childhood investments tipped towards the younger years of a child's life is optimal. However, we should prioritize, and shift our priorities, in a marginal fashion by redirecting a given total sum of expenditure on skill investment to earlier ages relative to how it is currently allocated toward disadvantaged populations that do not provide enriched environments for their children."


    A worthwhile read...but hardly the last word.

    To be clear, as I said above, making preschool an option available to all families makes sense, while mandating it for everyone would not. Heckman's recommendations are in line with that suggestion.

    Obama's proposal, also seems in line with that.

    "# Zero to Five Plan: Obama's comprehensive "Zero to Five" ... Obama will create Early Learning Challenge Grants to promote state "zero to five" efforts and help states move toward voluntary, universal pre-school.

    Expand Early Head Start and Head Start: Obama will quadruple Early Head Start, increase Head Start funding and improve quality for both. "

    Now, I personally think the Federal role in education should remain limited, but I think Snell and Dalmia have presented a distorted view of Obama's position...And their WSJ article is pure fluff and puffery designed to drive home a partisan position. But, to be fair, that is what they are paid to do.

  • smartass sob||

    And there is that ten billion dollars to think about. Over and over and over.


    Not only that - if anyone thinks the cost would not increase well beyond that, then he or she has been living under a rock for the last fifty years or so.

  • ||

    I contend that plopping the kid in front of a tv with a cup of suger water is better for them then sending them to school. At age four, the last thing a formitive mind needs is the idea that it's all about the group over the individual. My five year old just completed her first week of kindergarden and I'm already worried that she's ruined. Anyone advocating en extra year of public school is just nuts

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    but I think Snell and Dalmia have presented a distorted view of Obama's position...

    Yes, because Obama really doesn't mean to have 0-5 universal preschool that costs ten billion dollars.

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    I am guessing she hasn't done that rigorous systematic review of the literature.

    I'm sure your right in that Reason pays it's staff to go to the beach.

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    if anyone thinks the cost would not increase well beyond that, then he or she has been living under a rock for the last fifty years or so.

    The Quebec universal pre-school program was 33 times more costly than projections.

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    My five year old just completed her first week of kindergarden and I'm already worried that she's ruined. Anyone advocating en extra year of public school is just nuts

    Dude, you just made me shoot coffee out of nose all over the screen.

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    Expand Early Head Start and Head Start: Obama will quadruple Early Head Start, increase Head Start funding and improve quality for both. "

    You apparently missed the part where Head Start and Education week looked at the Head Start program over the last forty years and determined it was of little benefit.

    Given that these two organizations would have what you call a bias in favor of public spending on pre-school programs they also would have an incentive to present Head Start and UPK in the best possible light.

    Let's be generous and say that Head Start has been a net nothing. Not good, not bad, as the studies have indicated. Why do we want to go ahead and spend many more billions of tax dollars on a program that doesn't do anything?

    It's like the digging holes to get dirt to fill up the holes you dug up yesterday.

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    I will continue to be skeptical without further evidence presented.

    I think My Man SIV presented you with a pretty comprehensive list of further evidence. Just a mouse click away, dude.

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    I hadn't expected to convince TWC of the possibility of a Reason.com employee being biased on the issue...I will lower my expectations further.

    And well you should, because frankly, my bias is that tax paid public education should be abolished entirely. Most libertarians worthy of wearing the decoder ring will agree with that.

    DRINK!

    There are two arguments with respect to any proposal on the table that involves government. The moral and the practical.

    The stone tablet handed down from the mount says that neither you nor Obama has a moral right to take 10 billion dollars from Gillespie to send Jesse Walker's kid to pre-K. Even if it makes her a genius.

    You don't get to take my gun because your neighborhood is iffy. You don't get to round up gays and send them to re-education camp because your pastor told you they were hell bound anyway.

    Pragmatically speaking, UPK is largely ineffective and any gains to be had evaporate by the middle of elementary school.

    Since 70% of all kids are already participating in pre-k programs of one kind or another it is bad policy to spend billions upon billions of dollars to offer free pre-k which will effectively put private providers, church programs, and the YMCA out of business.

    The private sector is already doing a decent job of filling the market demand for pre-k.

    As the girls pointed out, if you want some improvements in our abysmal public education system then you need to move to a system (like our university system) where the money follows the student rather than locking the student into a poorly performing neighborhood school.

    Think about it. What if your college choice was restricted to whatever college happened to be in your neighborhood? Sorry Bud, we don't care how smart you are, you ain't going to UC Berkeley, you're going to Goldenwest College because you live across the street.

  • ||

    Being a global warming alarmist who believes cheap reneweable fuels are just around the corner is one thing. But trying to convince people that pre-K works? That's something else altogether.

  • Neu Mejican||

    TWC,

    I'm sure your right in that Reason pays it's staff to go to the beach.

    I think My Man SIV presented you with a pretty comprehensive list of further evidence. Just a mouse click away, dude.


    There is a big difference between the reports published by Reason and a rigorous systematic review of the scientific literature. Dude.

    You apparently missed the part where Head Start and Education week looked at the Head Start program over the last forty years and determined it was of little benefit.

    You apparently missed the part where all sides need to be presented to make a determination. But if you want to play cherry picking tit for tat...here.

    http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/opre/hs/impact_study/reports/first_yr_execsum/first_yr_execsum.pdf

    Now, I will state again that I think the federal government has little role to play in education. Education is a local issue for local governments to figure out. Additional options for parents with limited resources that result in an enriched environment for their children are a good thing. But the devil is in the details. How a program is implemented is what matters. Vouchers or tax credits in one community may work. For others, a different model may make more sense.

    A change in emphasis towards earlier educational enrichment is seems to be indicated by the bulk of the research I have read. I haven't done that systematic review yet, however, so I will remain skeptical of claims from either side. Particularly when they pretend the issue is settled.

  • ||

    Additional options for parents with limited resources that result in an enriched environment for their children are a good thing. But the devil is in the details. How a program is implemented is what matters.

    I asked Uncle Santa for a Ferrari, but I got a fucking Trabant.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Pragmatically speaking, UPK is largely ineffective and any gains to be had evaporate by the middle of elementary school.


    Although this has not been conclusively demonstrated, if true one might ask why.

    This paper may have something to say about the causes of this observed fade in benefits as kids get older.

    http://www.santafe.edu/research/publications/workingpapers/06-02-006.pdf

  • Neu Mejican||

    I know the headline is over the top. But as you all know, writers have zero control over headlines.

    Writers do have control of their own words, however...

    "If anything, preschool may do lasting damage to many children."

    Even the studies which not behavioral issues do not make this claim. Behavioral differences are noted to be minor with few kids exhibiting behaviors that would warrant the label "damaged."

    "that may be bad for their kids"

    Again, you are overstating. There is a difference between "benefit has not been demonstrated" and "evidence of harm."

  • Neu Mejican||

    which not = which note

  • Neu Mejican||

    Our understanding of the effects of preschool is still very much in its infancy. But one inescapable conclusion from the existing research is that it is not for everyone. Kids with loving and attentive parents -- the vast majority -- might well be better off spending more time at home than away in their formative years. The last thing that public policy should do is spend vast new sums of taxpayer dollars to incentivize a premature separation between toddlers and parents.

    Build it and they will come?

    70% are already making this choice according to the article. The incentive is already there. Obama's proposal changes the dynamics of the market, but it is not forcing preschool on anyone.

    Somehow this strikes me as similar to the arguments that McDonald's is incentivizing poor eating habits with their dollar menu.

  • Neu Mejican||

    "If anything, preschool may do lasting damage to many children."

    Notice also that the claim is that the demonstrated academic and cognitive gains of preschool are lost quickly. Somehow, however, the damage it does is lasting.

  • ||

    Since the local school board has pretty much solved all of the problems with public education around here, giving them a challenge like educating toddlers seems like the wise thing to do.

    Right?

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    NM,

    I don't think we have much to discuss because you have made it clear that you have no problem with taking other people's money to fund tax supported programs so long as somebody somewhere says it's a good idea.

    Well, have at it dude, dig deep, send in an extra ten grand or so with your 2008 1040. Don't forget to mark the memo section universal pre school fund. Just don't ask me to do the same, because in my judgment it is a waste of money.

    That, incidentally, is the difference between choice and force. You'd like to force the rest of us to do something we may not agree with or may not find of value.

    I am more than happy to allow you the choice to help fund any pre-school program you find to be of value.

    This isn't Monty Python's Argument Clinic, and I'm not arguing in my spare time. I'm moving on to the honeydew projects.

    Enjoy the weekend.

  • herodotus||

    She has a Master's degree in Science communication...I am guessing she hasn't done that rigorous systematic review of the literature. But hey, maybe she has training in meta-analysis post-masters and I am wrong on that point.


    No offense intended TWC, but I will continue to be skeptical without further evidence presented.



    OK, in the first place, there are no masters degrees in 'science'. At least not from any reputable institutions.


    And you aren't skeptical, you are a partisan.

    But most of all, the notion that only specialists in a particular field should discuss the subject matter of that field (which is what your 'systematic review of the literature' comment is intimating) is a particularly egregious version of the Professional Fallacy. The biggest problem with this is that it attempts to cloak prejudice with 'professional standards'.

    Like academic sociologists somehow don't have an axe to grind.

    Like the only evidence worth looking at is what they have already examined.

    I mean, come on, it's not like we are talking about real science here.

  • ||

    I assume Steve Chapman is working on the rebuttal to this article right now.

  • ||

    Somehow this strikes me as similar to the arguments that McDonald's is incentivizing poor eating habits with their dollar menu.



    If McDonalds was the federal government, the employees were required to have a BA degree, the hamburgers were paid for with tax dollars, and then provided to consumers at no charge you might have an analogy working for you.

  • ||

    There is a big difference between the reports published by Reason and a rigorous systematic review of the scientific literature. Dude.

    Scientific literature? What?

    We think ten kids would have gone to jail if they hadn't gone to pre-school that year so we've arrived at a net benefit to society of 30 times the cost of incarcerating the kids that didn't actually go to jail (course we don't really know why they didn't go to jail) plus the value of their contributions to society over a lifetime in terms of taxes paid and social benefits accruing because they are designing light rail instead of flipping hamburgers, except we really can't say that they would have flipped burgers if they hadn't gone to preschool but we really don't know shit from breakfast and we just think it might end up this way.

    Had you read the fifty some odd pages of the Reason/Goldwater study you wouldn't have changed your mind but it would not be so evident that you hadn't done so.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Herodotus,

    OK, in the first place, there are no masters degrees in 'science'. At least not from any reputable institutions.

    Of course, that was an allusion to Dr. Science, an old comedy radio show.

    But most of all, the notion that only specialists in a particular field should discuss the subject matter of that field (which is what your 'systematic review of the literature' comment is intimating) is a particularly egregious version of the Professional Fallacy. The biggest problem with this is that it attempts to cloak prejudice with 'professional standards'.

    Actually, a systematic review is a methodology and can be done by anyone with the proper training. It need not be done by "insider" experts. It does, however, require that you know what you are doing and is a very labor intensive undertaking. Most masters programs would not include the proper training...particularly in a Communications department. I have not seen Reason conduct any systematic reviews.

    But more to the point, Snell and Dalmia were being held up as experts on education, because they have done some journalism on the topic for an ideology-based think tank. Hardly a credible source for unbiased information, imho. The WSJ article demonstrates that, btw.

    And you aren't skeptical, you are a partisan.

    Which party am I a member of?
    Which partisan positions did I advocate?

    Let's review:
    1) On balance it would be a good thing if preschool were available to anyone who wanted it for their child. How best to do that is an open question, imo.
    2) It should not be made mandatory.
    3) The federal government doesn't have much of a role to play in education policy as it is a local issue.
    4) Local communities should decide what approach is best for them.
    5) The jury is out on whether preschool benefits are limited to just the disadvantaged, or whether they would be of benefit more broadly.

    TWC,

    you have made it clear that you have no problem with taking other people's money to fund tax supported programs so long as somebody somewhere says it's a good idea.

    More accurately, policy should be based on the best evidence, and not the opinions of those who have predetermined conclusions prior to assessing that evidence.

    Pragmatic considerations are only part of the story, of course. Many programs would not be justified no matter their effectiveness.

    Of course, vouchers are just as much about taking money by force as are any other methods of funding public education. I am not sure what your position is on vouchers, but Reason has certainly advocated this approach. Given that your wife is is Education Director at Reason Foundation, she may have had a hand in the decision to advocate for this approach. Given that taking money from me to send someone else's kids to school will involve force no matter what, I prefer that the money is spent in the most effective way possible...that may be vouchers in some communities. In others it may involve publicly owned school delivering the service. Either way, the devil will be in the details and careful oversight should be part of the package to be sure that the money is spent effectively.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Some Hamburger flipper,

    You mean this article?
    http://www.reason.org/ps344_universalpreschool.pdf

    Again, journalism does not equal a review of the evidence. Pretty color pictures and all.

    Ever hear of a thing called "peer review?"

    It's a pretty low bar, sure, but at least there's a bar.

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    Of course, vouchers are just as much about taking money by force as are any other methods of funding public education. I am not sure what your position is on vouchers, but Reason has certainly advocated this approach.

    Of course vouchers are about force.

    The larger point is that tax paid public education is not EVER going away. In that context it is important find a way to force improvements in public education. Vouchers may be one way to do that because it gives students and parents the right of exit from failing and/or dangerous public schools.

    A better option is when the per student funding follows the student when she bails out of a failing school and moves to the good school across town.

  • ||

    Vouchers may be one way to do that because it gives students and parents the right of exit from failing and/or dangerous public schools.

    Surely you overstate the shortcomings of public education.

    Are there actually any failing or dangerous public schools TWC? Not isolated incidents but something drastic like a system in the top twenty of the nation sizewise with a graduation rate of < 50%. Someplace where police roam the halls and metal detectors are the norm?

  • Neu Mejican||

    Surely you overstate the shortcomings of public education.

    The problem is to extrapolate from the specific case to the general case. Problems with certain school districts do not indicate problems in others. If we had a uniform public school system run by the federal government then a critique of "The PubliK Skools" might make sense.

    In the current situation, however, it is best to target those critiques to the districts where they apply. Even more effective is to target the criticism at the level of the specific school.

    I have worked in schools in the same neighborhood that were of radically different in quality. In NYC, for instance, I worked at two schools in Harlem that were across the street from each other. These, of course, served the same neighborhood, dealt with the same challenges, and the two schools were night and day. One was orderly, successful and full of educational activity. The other was nothing but discipline problems and distractions with little learning going on.

  • Neu Mejican||

    TWC,

    Vouchers may be one way to do that because it gives students and parents the right of exit from failing and/or dangerous public schools.

    Yes, the may be one way. It is important, however, to verify that they result in these improvements for a specific community.

    A better option is when the per student funding follows the student when she bails out of a failing school and moves to the good school across town.

    If you amend that to "a better option for some communities may be to have the funding follow the student" then I would agree with this.

    No one model will be right for all communities in a country of 350 million.

  • ||

    The problem is to extrapolate from the specific case to the general case. Problems with certain school districts do not indicate problems in others.

    The problem may be you didn't look at the table I linked to. The 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 7th, 11th and 13th largest districts in the whole country have H.S. graduation rates < 50%. I'm TLTG all of the districts police presence.

    Isolated incidents or damning evidence that the public education establishment is failing? Certainly enough to give a prudent person reservations about adding pre-schoolers to their not demonstrably successful mission.

    The Jesuit's have a saying

    Give me a child until he is seven, and I will give you the man.

    I would not recommend giving a child to Jesuits, communists, Branch Davidians, or the public school establishment. Identical reasons apply.

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    J Sub, just to be clear, I am fully in favor of abolishing public education entirely.

    [polishes the decoder ring on his shirt sleeve]

    Are there actually any failing or dangerous public schools TWC? Not isolated incidents but something drastic like a system in the top twenty of the nation sizewise with a graduation rate of < 50%. Someplace where police roam the halls and metal detectors are the norm?

    Reason's Director of Education wrote extensively about Locke High School in LA and then Drew Carey et al made that totally awesome film. See Reason.tv

    The school my kids go to is pretty good. But if you live in South Central LA or in Bumfuck Arkansas you lose.

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    BTW, some very bad news. NoStar is in intensive care and his 12 year old daughter was killed in a motorcycle accident today.

    Jesus Christ, sometimes life just sucks.

  • ||

    NoStar: "Higher gas prices have not reduced my time on the roads, but I have switched from my pickup truck to my motorcycle for most trips. Started this back in Febrrrrrrrrrrrrrrruary and even now, it is a bit cold in the mornings.

    On the other hand, my daughter loves being taken to school on the bike no matter what the weather. You can see the envy on her friends faces."

    April 24, 2008, 7:41pm

    "Jesus Christ, sometimes life just sucks."

    Indeed. :(

  • bob||

    Neu Mejican, bravo
    Education is the key, and it does not take much looking to see the system needs improving.
    That is why education is an ever changing system looking for improvement. Realize that under the present system daycare workers are required less training than those people doing your fingernails or cutting your hair. Is your appearance more important than this countries children? Instead of talking against any proposed improvement. Find a better way for all the countries children and forget the only mine are important attitude, and maybe your children will grow up in a better society.

  • Neu Mejican||

    JsubD,

    The problem may be you didn't look at the table I linked to. The 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 7th, 11th and 13th largest districts in the whole country have H.S. graduation rates < 50%.

    This may say more about the fallacy that economies of scale are a positive in education. My experience has been that smallish to mid-sized districts do a better job than large districts. I believe it has to do with the distance between the decision makers and the kids.

    A good option to get the economies of scale advantages and the small district advantages are for small districts to form coops for purchasing common items/services. It has worked well in New Mexico.

  • ||

    Neu Mejican wrote, "A good option to get the economies of scale advantages and the small district advantages are for small districts to form coops for purchasing common items/services. It has worked well in New Mexico."

    This approach would also work well for a local federation of private schools. So why don't we: Just get rid of the politicized districts altogether and privatize the dysfunctional public school system? Make educational costs (or gifts intended to defray such costs) completely tax-deductible at State and Federal levels (or grant dollar-for-dollar tax credits)? Create a needs-based scholarship, funded through private donation and administered by a tax-exempt non-profit? I think that this situation would result in a) at least as many students being educated as are now handled by the public schools; 2) more parental involvement in and oversight of education; 3) the opportunity for the proliferation of many small providers, who can cater to special needs and provide more individualized attention than available with present options.

    I want "universal education" and everyone to have a fair shot at finding educational success. After close observation of the public school scene for almost 40 years, and very close observation of my area's local private school scene for the past decade, I think privatizing the education "system" offers the best chance of achieving the goals. Those who cling to the socialist education establishment model will soon be seen as actively damaging children, if they aren't already.

  • ||

    # The Wine Commonsewer | August 25, 2008, 2:14am | #

    # BTW, some very bad news. NoStar is in
    # intensive care and his 12 year old daughter
    # was killed in a motorcycle accident today.

    # Jesus Christ, sometimes life just sucks.

    My wife and were saying that last line about the recent, premature death of our cat, our personable, furry friend and lord of our house for the past nine years.

    TWC's news about NoStar put our situation in its proper context, all the moreso when my son called from college as I was reading the posting. We had just dropped him off at his quarters in Berkeley last night, and reading TWC's note made me want to hear his voice: then, there it was.

    Every moment with the ones we love is a gift, folks. Enjoy them all.

    My thoughts, sentiments, and best wishes go out to Bill Kalles and his family.

  • Kant feel Pietzsche||

    Good grief! The New Comprachios have struck again!

    This isn't about increasing cognitive ability, this is about a little extra head start in "socializing" the proles.

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