Studies Don’t Support Obama’s Pre-K Initiative
After surveying the leading studies on early childhood intervention, social scientist Charles Murray offers sobering, and much-needed, advice on what’s really at stake:
So what should we make of all this? The take-away from the story of early childhood education is that the very best programs probably do a modest amount of good in the long run, while the early education program that can feasibly be deployed on a national scale, Head Start, has never proved long-term results in half a century of existence. In the most rigorous evaluation ever conducted, Head Start doesn’t show results that persist even until the third grade.
Let me rephrase this more starkly: As of 2013, no one knows how to use government programs to provide large numbers of small children who are not flourishing with what they need. It’s not a matter of money. We just don’t know how.
Asking [the right] questions forces us to confront a reality that politicians and other opinion leaders have ducked for decades: America has far too many children born to men and women who do not provide safe, warm and nurturing environments for their offspring — not because there’s no money to be found for food, clothing and shelter, but because they are not committed to fulfilling the obligations that child-bearing brings with it.
This head-in-the-sand attitude has to change. If we don’t know how to substitute for absent, uncaring or incompetent parenting with outside interventions, then we have to think about how we increase the odds that children are born to present, caring and competent parents.
Answering Murray’s questions would require a different sort of leadership than proposing yet another multi-billion dollar federal program. In a word, it would require statesmanship.
Don’t expect the current president to be rising to that challenge any time soon.