NYTimes Magazine | After the Bell Curve
By DAVID L. KIRP
In “Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children,” the University of Kansas psychologists Betty Hart and Todd Risley find that by the time they are 4 years old, children growing up in poor families have typically heard a total of 32 million fewer spoken words than those whose parents are professionals. That language gap translates directly into stunted academic trajectories.
Is there a way to reduce such gaps? In recent years, the case for investing in early-childhood education has become stronger and stronger. [...] The push for universal preschool is not a red-state-blue-state issue; the pioneers in the area are Oklahoma and Georgia, not generally known for social progressivism. And with the support of business groups and prominent philanthropists like Susan Buffett, the daughter of Warren Buffett, it may enter the national agenda. If it does, it will be a small step toward a society in which not only the most fortunate children will be able to “max out” their potential.
Published: July 23, 2006