A thought on universal Pre-K
Matthew Martin 2/16/2013 07:27:00 PM
Yglesias appears not to buy the optimistic findings of Heckman and his crew. Or at the very least, doesn't find their results highly generalizable. So here is a question that should help clarify the policy question: Should we offer universal kindergarten?
My point is that pre-k is different from k-12 education only by social convention. A better question than whether to enact universal pre-k is simply to ask what is the optimal age to start education? If pre-k is not worthwhile, as Yglesias suspects, then it is that much more likely that kindergarten is also not worthwhile--the two are, after all, only one year apart. And of course, if kindergarten is not worthwhile, then we need to ask whether first grade is either.
So, the real question has little to do with pre-k. What we are really after is the optimal age at which to start school. People who argue against pre-k are, more often than not, making a much more specific argument than they think they are, since to the extent they don't support abolishing Kindergarten they are really saying that they believe there is some inherent reason that 5 years old, not 4, happens to be the exact optimal age to start school--I guess we just lucked out on that one.