Barbara Beatty

Recent Articles

Past, Present, and Future

The movement to universalize preschool education is not new. Americans have been attempting to get public support for educating our youngest children for more than 150 years. Why has it taken so long? What are the obstacles? And what do past successes suggest about promising strategies for the future? In 1830, a petition to formally incorporate "infant schools" into the Boston Public Schools was rejected by the Primary School Committee. Opposing it, primary-school teachers said infant-school graduates were difficult to manage, while a mental-health specialist and child-rearing advice-givers argued that excessive early stimulation was damaging to children. Proponents, the women of the Infant School Society of Boston, complained that men had been insufficiently supportive of their plan. Despite this setback, as historian Maris Vinovskis documents, many 3- and 4-year-olds in Massachusetts were attending public schools until the mid-19th century, toddling along after their older siblings...