Economist James Heckman had a good New York Times column the other day about the economic benefits of universal early childhood education. Despite the documented benefits of this intervention for poor kids, however, the U.S. is pitifully slow to act. Why?
Why aren’t we moving forward and changing our ways by making investments in life-changing early childhood development for disadvantaged children? Two things: unfounded doubt and fear of doing things differently.
I would add another reason: gender.
Too many people are stuck on the idea that young children need to be with their mothers all day. Not only is early childhood education good for children, and equalizing economically, it’s also good for women and would help reduce gender inequality by promoting women’s employment – especially for single mothers – and reducing work-family conflict.
Universal, public, early childhood education: Good for children, reduces economic inequality, equalizes opportunities, maximizes public investment in human capacities, reduces gender inequality, and maybe even helps break the grip of hyper-parenting. Or, we could just fight some more wars.