When pre-k is too late

New York City is adding prekindergarten seats to public schools, but pre-k may come too late to change the trajectory of disadvantaged children,writes Ginia Bellafante in a New York Times blog.

Last year, when I was visiting a public school in Sunset Park in Brooklyn for teenagers with boundless difficulties, my host, a poet who teaches at various city schools, mentioned a student who had become pregnant. Hoping to start a library for the child soon to arrive, the poet told the young woman embarking on motherhood that she would like to give her some books — books of the kind her own grandchildren growing up in a very different Brooklyn had by the dozens. The offer was met skeptically. “I already have one,” the girl said.

A young, single mother “who thinks one book is enough” isn’t likely to expand her child’s vocabulary or knowledge of the world through talking, reading or exposition, writes Bellafante. “We should concentrate our energies on helping the most vulnerable parents and children beginning at, or before, birth,” she concludes.

The left is squeamish about telling poor people how to behave, Bellafante concedes. “No one wants to live in a world in which social workers are marching through apartments mandating the use of colorful, laminated place mats emblazoned with pictures of tiny kangaroos and the periodic table.”

But perhaps paternalism can be sold as “compassion,” she concludes.

The Harlem Children’s Zone includes a Baby College, a parenting workshop for expectant parents and those raising a child up to three years old. There’s an intensive preschool program to prepare three- and four-year-olds for kindergarten. It’s not clear the “pipeline” concept is effective enough to justify the costs.

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  1. Those who advocate for the treatment of “root causes” of poverty, poor educational outcomes and lots of other ills are unwilling even to discuss the possibility that the major “root cause” might be people creating kids they are unable and/or unwilling to raise properly and expecting Big Daddy Government to solve all of their problems.

  2. Richard Aubrey says:

    A pallet of clue bats might be more useful.

    • Mr. Rational says:

      Clue bats require something capable of receiving a clue at the other end.  Depo-Provera works at the sub-conceptual level.

  3. SuperSub says:

    Pre-K is ALWAYS too late. It is the equivalent of telling an HIV patient to be careful about their sexual partners.

    • Richard Aubrey says:

      Taking your analogy one step further, it would be a good idea, considering the other partners and all.