Friday, March 08, 2013


Years ago I read a NYT Sunday Magazine article about a teenage age mother and I was saddened to read that when her child reached the 3rd grade, she could no longer read to him because she herself was such a poor reader. PBS interviewed psychologist Jerome Kagan about early childhood education and he made a consilient point:
Paul Solman: The achievement gap between richer and poorer?

Jerome Kagan: Yes, between the affluent and the bottom third of the population. Many people acknowledge that it has to do with the fact that poor, uneducated parents don't realize the importance of reading to your child, talking to your child, taking your child to the zoo. It's not that they dislike it; they don't realize it's important.

The message of Sesame Street is clear. Sesame Street was funded by public funds with the hope that it would help poor kids. But it helped middle class kids because the parents sat with them and explained it, and the gap in knowing your letters between the poor and affluent was bigger after Sesame Street than before.

So it has to do with the failures of parents. Rarely is that in the press because there's a deep reluctance to blame the victim.

Paul Solman: What is the fundamental problem?

Jerome Kagan: The fundamental problem is that the gap in educational achievement, which is a key in our technological economy, is due in my opinion -- and the opinion of many, including Arne Duncan, our secretary of education -- to the fact that the families of the poor who are not very educated are not talking to their children, interacting with their children, insisting they do their homework and so on. Should we say it's a failure? Let's say it's an error of omission.

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