Is early childhood education the real issue behind the Occupy protests?
By now, you’ve presumably heard of Occupy Wall Street, and other like-minded protests in cities throughout the country that are shedding light on the richest 1 percent of Americans who have a greater net worth than the bottom 90 percent. While most of the suggested solutions involve changes in taxation, what the issue really comes down to is early childhood education.
We recently discussed the importance of early childhood education, and how children from low-income families are starting kindergarten far behind the standard curve. Now, rather than occupying a street, New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof suggests we occupy the classroom.
Even before kindergarten, there are significant gaps between richer and poorer students, which only increase with time. A good early childhood education can help bridge this gap, but unfortunately, many children from low income families are never given this opportunity. In addition to limited access to good early childhood education, low income parents are often less involved, especially those who work multiple jobs, which sets the child back even farther.
In economist James Heckman’s article, The Economics of Inequality: The Value of Early Childhood Education, he explains how inequality starts at or before birth, stating that, “Schooling after the second grade plays only a minor role in creating or reducing gaps” and that the “logic is quite clear from an economic standpoint. We can invest early to close disparities and prevent achievement gaps, or we can pay to remediate disparities when they are harder and more expensive.”
While there are programs such as Head Start, whose alumni are more likely to graduate from high school and attend college, there needs to be much more done to help build a more fair nation—we can’t afford to wait any longer.