web analytics
March 5, 2015 / 14 Adar , 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Is Preschool All It’s Cracked Up To Be?

Front-Page-040414

There is a tide in the affairs of men, as Shakespeare noted in words spoken by Brutus in “Julius Caesar.” There are issues or needs that receive attention and support at particular times, though previously they were neglected, while matters that once were regarded as urgent have been downgraded in importance.

As an example, it is not possible these days to avoid hearing the gay rights message because it receives top billing in our media, while just about all other issues that might be couched in human rights terms lag far behind in attention. A potent but sad example is the situation of black America. This cause is now at the back of the bus and blacks are like a raisin in the sun.

We now are in the season of advocacy of preschool, referring specifically to the education of children who are four years old. This tide has now come in, thanks in large measure to New York’s Bill de Blasio, who has made preschool his signature issue.

Putting aside critical questions, including the availability of space and competent preschool teachers, as well as where the city will secure the funds to pay for the vast expansion advocated by Mr. de Blasio, we need to ask whether from an educational standpoint the bandwagon for preschool is justified. Are we being sold once more another bill of goods based more on hype, hope and ideology than on a careful examination of whether preschool makes a significant difference down the road in the lives of children who were in a school setting at the age of four?

This question cannot be answered by the observation, correct as it is, that governments always oversell the benefits of the social programs they create and fund. There is an inevitable public relations instinct that when coupled with undue optimism results in a cascade of exaggerated claims. Interestingly, claims of success always precede the establishment of the initiative for which the claim is being made, as if wishing to make it so is of itself confirmation of the fulfillment of the wish.

More than forty years ago, when I was at City Hall on Mayor John V. Lindsay’s staff, there was an announcement of a new housing initiative. The public was told – and the media bought into the message – that the program would result in the creation of 50,000 additional affordable housing units. Considerable effort went into the language of the announcement, as if it could serve as the legitimate surrogate for the program itself. I said as much at the time in a column that was published in this newspaper. My colleagues in the mayor’s office were not pleased.

The housing initiative was launched and it resulted in a fair number of additional affordable apartments, but they were far fewer than the number Mr. Lindsay had claimed when he announced the program.

Mayor de Blasio’s fervid exaggeration of the benefits of preschool should not serve as a reason to reject the concept. The idea may be oversold and yet it may have meaningful value, so that while the benefits are not likely to be as great as its votaries suggest, the expansion of preschool may well result in significant improvement in the children’s subsequent educational experiences and in adulthood. What do we know about the educational/social/behavioral/career impact of preschool?

It turns out we know a great deal because there has been much research and there is a considerable literature on the subject. It also turns out, probably not surprisingly, that there is much debate among experts – I am not sure what the term means – as to whether preschool is as good as it is cracked up to be. In fact, just about everything about education is subject to dispute. There are arguments among educators and researchers about curriculum reform, testing, teacher evaluation, charter schools, discipline and much more, with respected educators and researchers on each side of each issue and with respected educators and researchers on each side saying that those in the opposite camp are cooking the books or just plain mistaken. Why should we expect agreement on the value of preschool?

About the Author: Dr. Marvin Schick has been actively engaged in Jewish communal life for more than sixty years. He can be contacted at mschick@mindspring.com.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

2 Responses to “Is Preschool All It’s Cracked Up To Be?”

  1. My Mother would not let us go to kindergarten, she said from birth to age five was the most important years, and she would be the one to teach us for those most important years.

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Megillat Esther
The Origins of Purim
Latest Indepth Stories
Ron Prosor

Values at the very heart of the UN are threatened by extremist ideologies targeting our way of life

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

Anti-Semitism today focuses on Israel and the quest to delegitimize it.

Ballots for elections "made in Samaria."

Any Jew who ties his fate to Israel should be able to vote in Israel’s elections-even before aliyah

A young Moshe Meir Weiss introduces his mother, Mrs. Agnes Weiss Goldman, to Rav Moshe in 1979.

There were no airs about him. Rav Moshe was affectionately known as the Gaon of Normalcy.

Israel’s full sovereignty over a united Jerusalem is the only path for true peace in the region.

Just like Moses and Aaron, Mordechai decides to ruin the party…

The president has made clear – I can’t state this more firmly – the policy is Iran will not get a nuclear weapon.

Obama has an apparent inability to understand Islam in particular and Mid-East culture in general

Pesach is a Torah-based holiday whose fundamental observances are rooted in Torah law; Purim is a rabbinic holiday whose laws and customs are grounded in the rabbinic tradition.

In honor of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s successful speech before Congress.

Mr. Spock conveys a message with painfully stark relevance to our world today, especially in the context of PM Netanyahu’s speech to Congress.

Obama created the “partisan politics” by asking Dem. party members to avoid Bibi and his address

Enough is enough. The Jewish community has a big tent, but the NIF should have no place in it.

I vote for the right and get left-wing policy. Every. Frigging. Time.

More Articles from Marvin Schick
Marvin Schick

To say he was beloved because of the way he loved his students does not sufficiently capture the reality.

Front-Page-090514

Although I was not a Zionist, like most others I knew in Agudath Israel in which I was active, I was zionistic.

We now are in the season of advocacy of preschool, referring specifically to the education of children who are four years old.

Two months ago, the Pew Research Center issued a comprehensive study of American Jews and ever since the American Jewish community has been debating the findings. I have contributed my share to this debate, which concerns matters of critical importance.

As the Torah teaches, poverty will never be eradicated, nor will our obligation to assist those in need.

As we commemorate the fiftieth yahrzeit this Friday, the second day of Kislev, of Rav Aaron Kotler – the greatest Jew, in the opinion of even many of his fellow Torah luminaries, ever to set foot on North American soil – we are obligated to reflect on his achievements and the lessons he taught.

A major sociological characteristic and consequence of modernity is the tendency for people to join together in associations that express a common goal or interest or a shared experience. The United States has been a nation of joiners from day one and perhaps even before independence was declared. Alexis de Tocqueville described this tendency in Democracy in America, the epic prophetic work published a century and three-quarters ago.

There is constant talk of a tuition crisis, of the growing number of yeshiva and day school parents – and potential parents – who say that full tuition or anything close to it is beyond their financial reach.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/front-page/is-preschool-all-its-cracked-up-to-be/2014/04/02/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: