It’s a painful reality that too many children in our country face challenges beginning at birth. During a recent visit to the Head Start community in West Virginia, I heard from programs about just what Nicholas Kristof describes in his recent column, Building Children’s Brains, — babies born on drugs, early attachments interrupted when parents are incarcerated, and communities overwhelmed by the instability of families. To Mr. Kristof’s point - we need to invest in the earliest years of life to ensure our children are fully prepared to compete in their later years.
[shib·bo·leth/noun: a common saying or belief with little current meaning or truth.]
Although not frequently used, the term shibboleth precisely describes the oft-repeated, yet fallacious, assertion that the benefits of Head Start completely fade out by third grade,
In recent years, foes of federal investment in early childhood education cite fade out as a justification for disinvestment. Somehow, a snapshot of cognitive development, taken in the third grade, has become a proxy for the long-term effects of quality early learning.
Against all odds, prekindergarten is gaining ground.
President Obama called again in his State of the Union address for Congress to support high-quality preschool for all, noting that 30 states are already moving ahead on this front (including New York).
“Research shows that one of the best investments we can make in a child’s life is high-quality early education,” Obama said. The House speaker, John Boehner, who sat stonily through most of Obama’s speech, applauded that line. Congress also unexpectedly increased financing this year for early education.
The zombie vogue in today's movies and TV shows has also invaded media and think tanks in a form that Paul Krugman recently (and aptly) named "zombie ideas" -- i.e., thoughts that should melt away in the daylight of reality and evidence but which "refuse to die." A zombie idea persists when it's "one of those things that everyone important thinks is true because everyone they know says it's true."