The Myths of Early Learning and One Simple Truth

The Myths of Early Learning and One Simple TruthI’ve been following a blog series at Next Generation titled Top 6 Myths About Early Education. The author Reynaldo Fuentes does a great job of laying down myths that opponents of President Obama’s early childhood education plan have been using in their argument against these efforts.

To argue that, in general, early childhood education is expensive and ineffective is a tough hill to climb given the contrary evidence. Here’s a summary of Reynaldo’s six myths:

1. The achievement gap is not a problem.  Clearly, it is. A recent Fordham Institute Flypaper blog – To close the ‘opportunity gap,’ we need to close the vocabulary gap – notes that the gap between advantaged and disadvantaged kids in the U.S. has grown dramatically over the past 60 years. This gap emerges before school entry, and while it doesn’t widen much during K-12 education, it doesn’t shrink either. Early intervention is required to break this cycle.

2. Early learning is ineffective. The so-called ‘fade-out’ that opponents seem to use to suggest that early learning is a waste of an investment is simply not true. We’ve discussed this in our own blog post on the subject – The Investment in Early Childhood Education and the Myth of the Fade-Out.

3. Early childhood education is too expensive. Opponents fail to see the larger picture of what a better educated workforce and community can do (and how it can benefit us all in the long run). Reynaldo’s blog refers to a TED talk by Timothy Bartik, who makes an excellent economic case for early childhood education.

4. Successful early education programs are outliers. While opponents point to the data, the data are susceptible to misinterpretation. Study-after-study shows (as Raynaldo lists) that states have implemented early childhood education programs that are scalable and effective.

5. The President’s funding plan early education won’t work. While the President has laid out a cigarette tax plan that adds up, this myth might be harder to bust. It’s not that the numbers don’t work. Rather, the assumption that our government will find common ground and make smart decisions that benefit society long-term  is a tenuous basis for any plan.

6. A national effort is doomed to fail. Although the President has shared a national vision for early childhood education, he has put the decision-making power in the hands of local governments, many of which share the same vision. While deemed a national effort, clearly this will play out locally.

These myths are, for the most part, just that. Regardless of the plans pursued by federal or local governments there is one incontrovertible truth: parental involvement in early childhood education and development is paramount. Parents who are actively involved in their kids’ early learning have the power to launch them on a trajectory of academic and career success. In order to succeed, early childhood plans at the state and community level will need to take this into account.

What other myths or truths do you see in early childhood education? We’d love to hear your thoughts!