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Preschools Duel Over Best Strategy

Once considered a backburner issue, preschooling is now in the news because of its hidden potential ("Free Play or Flashcards? New Study Nods to More Rigorous Preschools," The New York Times, May 31). Specifically, a study 6,150 children nationwide that controlled for income and home environment found that academic programs provided substantial benefits for future learning.

But I think it's important to put the results into proper context.  I'm not talking now about the usual "fade-out" effects that often characterize such studies.  Instead, I'm referring to the philosophical preferences of parents.  To some, children of that tender age should not be subjected to formal academic instruction.  For example, Waldorf schools place heavy emphasis on play, delaying formal reading instruction until first grade.

That's one of the reasons that I support parental choice.  Parents know the needs and interests of their children.  What is a good fit for one child is a disaster for another.  Attitudes about school are often heavily inluenced by a child's first experience.  All the more reason to grant parents wide freedom of choice.

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