State of the Union: The Case Behind Obama’s Call for National Pre-K

The President’s State of the Union address last night was remarkable for many reasons. One of the most important points,  I’d argue the single most important, was the president’s call for ‘national Pre-K’. After the speech, Ezra Klein, a columnist with the Washington Post and an MSNBC analyst, used the work of  Nobel Prize Winner and COTC intervieweeJames Heckman, to make the case behind the president’s claim that ‘every dollar spent on pre-K saves us seven dollars later’. (See video of Obama’s statement and Kleins’ analysis).

For more on the economic arguments behind the case for investing in children’s school readiness, read our interviews with:

James J. Heckman – Nobel Prize Winner in Economic Sciences 2000; Professor, University of Chicago; Lead Author: The Productivity Argument for Investing in Young Children

Arthur J. Rolnick  – Senior Vice President & Director of Research,  Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis;  Co- Author: The Economics of Early Childhood Development

Eric Hanushek  –  Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution of Stanford University; Chairman, Executive Committee for the Texas Schools Project; Member, Koret Task Force on K–12 Education

For more on the early childhood development research behind the case for investing in children’s school readiness, check out these COTC chapters on Readiness and Preschools and this index of resources on Child Health and Development.

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4 Responses to State of the Union: The Case Behind Obama’s Call for National Pre-K

  1. Susan Hales February 15, 2013 at 5:51 pm #

    David, good to see this, and I’m glad that your immense body of work is getting more widely shared, but what about MindShame? That’s still a problem for all the ones that have already been left out, right? Are there parts of the president’s proposals that address all the ones still in school struggling, and more importantly, the professors, coaches, and counselors that supposedly help them?

    Greetings from Mobile, AL – don’t think we’ve talked since about August of 2010…

    • Learning-Activist February 15, 2013 at 6:22 pm #

      Hi Susan,

      Good to hear from you. Yes, what about Mind-Shame? In my view it remains the single largest impediment to more people’s success in school and life than any other (non-innate) factor. And, it’s tough going to get the institutions to realize this. However, I do think that the more ready children are for the obstacle course of early school the less in danger they are. Frankly, Universal Pre-K has to be instituted rather late in the developmental trajectory. 4 year olds are already in danger if their early life learning trajectories haven’t sufficiently exercised their cognitive and linguistic processing. Still, what else can we do? Certainly not any one thing is the right thing. We have to do many things at once. As a nation we must learn to help children be ready to learn what we insist they must. – Thanks and all the best, David

  2. Marie March 25, 2013 at 7:30 pm #

    Do you really think the government system that institutes or encourages maladaptive learning techniques and shame in our youth should be responsible to start the process earlier? I am not taking the responsibility off of parents, but it seems that educating parents would be far more beneficial than starting the institutionalizing earlier… I have been enjoying your posts otherwise.

    • Learning-Activist March 26, 2013 at 5:25 am #

      Great question, Marie. My short response is that I think we must do both. The family is the child’s most powerful learning environment (see Family Effects.) Helping parents learn to become ‘stewards of the health of their kids learning’ is absolutely essential but it’s very difficult (see “Parents“) Parents must steward the kinds of learning needed for their kids to be ready for school (see Readiness) or their experience of school will endanger them (See Preschools). Millions of children are growing up in families that are not stewarding their readiness for the challenges that await them in school. It may take a couple of generations before this changes. Should these children be casualties of their early learning environments (See Inequality). I don’t think so and that means our institutions have to learn to lift the early life learning trajectories of children (See Birth to Five / PreK). Changing how parents understand and steward their children’s learning is ideal. Practically speaking, it takes both.

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