In Standardized Childhood, Berkeley Professor Bruce Fuller questions the push for universal preschool tied to “public school bureaucracies.” Tax-funded preschools would provide one standardized model for young children, he writes.
On Early Stories, universal preschool advocate Richard Colvin complains that the progressive professor is sounding as alarmist as conservatives, libertarians and unschoolers.
Fuller is worried about what he calls the “brave new world” of child-rearing, conjuring up an image of government bureaucrats marching kids into school not long after they’re out of diapers to drill them on the ABCs. That’s not much different from the Connecticut blog called “Red Notes from a Blue State” that referred to pre-schools as “pedagogical holding pens.” Or the anti-preschool crowd in Idaho that fears some government â€œnanny state.â€ Oddly, Fuller also sounds a lot like the “unschooling” crowd, that says children should be allowed to develop at their own pace and time, freed from annoying school work.
And if Fuller doesn’t trust low-income parents to pick a charter or voucher school, why does he trust to pick the right preschool or no preschool at all?
Fuller responds on the blog.
Sure, it takes a village. But the pivotal question moving forward is, who gets to call the shots across Americaâ€™s diverse villages, and what are the ethics and evidence on the proposition that whatâ€™s best is a more homogenous way of raising and instructing young children are best?
A professor of education and public policy, Fuller writes that research shows quality preschool strongly benefits children from poor families but provides few lasting benefits for children from middle-class families. Why not subsidize quality preschool for the children of blue-collar parents instead of spending scarce dollars to lower the preschool bills of affluent parents.
This is the argument that resonates most strongly with me. Young children have very different needs. I fear universal preschool won’t provide the kind of early education that disadvantaged children need because it’s too expensive (and unnecessary) to do for all children. Instead we’ll get programs that provide too little for the needy and more than enough for middle-class and affluent kids.
Update: EdWeek looks at whether a bachelor’s degree should be required to teach preschool. Fuller and others say there’s no evidence that teachers with BAs are better.