Irving Harris

Recent Articles

Starting Small, Thinking Big

Society needs to help the very young, long before formal schooling begins, or the battle for the next generation will be lost.

T he United States spends more than $500 billion each year on the education of 5- to 25-year-olds. Despite disagreement over specific strategies, investment in education commands broad public support. But one of the most basic building blocks of the educational system suffers from broad neglect: very young children. Social science and biological research have shown that the most rapid and significant developmental phase of life is the period from conception to age five. In fact, setting young at-risk children on paths of stable development during this period may be our best hope for breaking the cycle of poverty. Our public school system presumes that students will enter kindergarten around age five poised to begin learning. A five-year-old arriving in kindergarten with developmental, health, or behavioral problems that impede learning is at a disadvantage that will likely only worsen with age. In addition, the more developmentally delayed children there are in a classroom, the more...