by Bruce Baumann, Scripps
Howard News Service, May 27, 2003
If you can understand the words in this story, you can thank your parents
for spending time singing and talking to you when you were in the womb.
Then, if they continued to talk to you after you were born, introduced you
to challenging problems and spent a great deal of time reading to you
until you were at least 3, you developed learning skills that stayed with
you for the rest of your life.
There's a grass-roots education revolution taking place in this country,
and many parents are taking advantage of it. What we're learning about
early childhood development is being used in many school districts.
States are passing laws to benefit our children and society. Florida
recently passed a law allowing 4-year-olds to attend pre-kindergarten for
free. California placed a 50-cent tax on a pack of cigarettes, using the
money for early childhood development.
Daviess County, Ky., a small school district, has big ideas about what it
takes to improve the learning skills of children. Its administrators and
teachers have enlisted the support of the community to introduce music,
foreign language, art and even chess to kindergartners. The program,
called Project 2010, began in 1997 and will culminate with a senior class
in 2010. Early test scores indicate they're onto something big.
As in many school districts, money is an issue. That's where foundations
such as the Welborn Foundation in Evansville, Ind., and The Pew Charitable
Trusts have come in, investing heavily in early childhood development.
Experts believe that for every dollar spent on these programs, society
saves at least seven dollars in the criminal justice system. Experts say
75 percent of jail inmates do not have a high school diploma.
Is it possible to build a better society? Experts say they can close the
achievement gap among our children, and in doing so create better
Experts believe that intelligence is not fixed, but rather open-ended.
Rick Hulefeld, an advocate for early childhood development and director of
a child-care agency in Kentucky, says, "We are involved in finishing God's
Perhaps Plato said it best more than 2,300 years ago, when he stated, "The
direction in which education starts a man will determine his future life."