Occupy the Classroom: economic justice demands universal early childhood education

"Occupy the Classroom," Nicholas D. Kristof's NYT op-ed, argues that the fight for economic justice needs to include a demand for universal access to high quality early childhood education, as this is the key to social mobility.

“This is where inequality starts,” said Kathleen McCartney, the dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, as she showed me a chart demonstrating that even before kindergarten there are significant performance gaps between rich and poor students. Those gaps then widen further in school.

“The reason early education is important is that you build a foundation for school success,” she added. “And success breeds success.”

One common thread, whether I’m reporting on poverty in New York City or in Sierra Leone, is that a good education tends to be the most reliable escalator out of poverty. Another common thread: whether in America or Africa, disadvantaged kids often don’t get a chance to board that escalator.

Maybe it seems absurd to propose expansion of early childhood education at a time when budgets are being slashed. Yet James Heckman, a Nobel Prize-winning economist at the University of Chicago, has shown that investments in early childhood education pay for themselves. Indeed, he argues that they pay a return of 7 percent or more — better than many investments on Wall Street.

(via Beth Pratt)

(Image: Preschool Songs, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from caseywest's photostream)