With the ongoing debate over the feasibility and benefits of universal preschool and now with the spotlight of the upcoming 2008 presidential election, Bruce Fuller’s Standardized Childhood: The Political and Cultural Struggle over Early Education is more of resource than ever. In the past year Fuller, a professor of Education and Public Policy at University of California at Berkeley, has been called upon by numerous media outlets—ranging from the Washington Post to Education Week to KQED’s Forum—to weigh in on issues such as No Child Left Behind and universal Pre-K (UPK) education. Most recently, his book was recommended as a resource for doctors and parents by the prestigious American Academy of Pediatrics.
Last week Fuller appeared in a New York Times article that focused on the significance of the UPK movement as a campaign issue in 2008. Fuller’s pragmatic look at the costs and effectiveness of a “one system for all” preschool program appears alongside the pro-UPK argument of fellow UC Berkeley Public Policy professor David Kirp. Fuller questions the educational benefits of a mass preschool program, while Kirp believes that UPK education is essential to developing brighter students and closing the education gap.
Just as these two policy experts differ in opinion, the 2008 presidential candidates are also decidedly split on the issue, mainly between the Democratic and Republican parties. Democrats such as Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Joe Biden, Bill Richardson, and Christopher Dodd, support federal funding for universal pre-K education, while most other Democratic candidates at the very least support increased funding for programs such as Head Start. Noticeably absent from the list of vocal UPK supporters are the Republican candidates, who have traditionally supported a limited role for the federal government when it comes to education, and are choosing to focus more on issues such as school choice and vouchers.
As the Bush administration nears its end, presidential candidates must gear up with plans on handling the state of post-NCLB education, an already contentious issue. With its clear analysis of the pros and cons of the universal preschool movement, Standardized Childhood will be especially invaluable as we come upon the 2008 election and decide the fate of our nation’s educational system.