Letter to the Editor: In response to McMahon’s “Subsidized preschools?”

By: Josh Sabo

First, we have to applaud McMahon’s observation of the importance of culture with regards to education in America. Culture is certainly the problem. However, what McMahon means to critique — albeit, in a limited way — becomes part of a culture of negativity in reaction to education policy. This culture believes that no first step is capable unless it radically reorganizes our approach to education.

We must ask, however, why support of a policy can’t illustrate a shift in cultural values towards education. The broad support for expanding access to preschool is representative of an attitude shift in education: one that exemplifies our commitment to equal footing in the education system. All children deserve as fair a shot as possible when they start first grade. That’s powerful, and we shouldn’t sell it short. It’s exemplary of a commitment to fairness and equality. Rather than this issue needing rethinking, the fact that early education access is an issue on the local, state and federal agenda is suggestive of an ongoing change in attitude.

On his reference to Finland, we have to recognize that the country’s racial and economic homogeneity lends itself to a greater educational equality. In an education system like the United States, with so many variables and factors, we cannot ignore the value of testing in helping policy writers make sense of the complexity.

When did we want to stop striving towards ambitious goals and metrics? Why is the sole interpretation of ambitiousness competition? Can we not be ambitious in our pursuit of fairness? To limit the role of testing to increasing competition is a mistake. Rather, we must use these evaluation tools to reveal existing inequality and to discover strategies to address these systemic failures to ensure that every child deserves a chance to (and can) excel academically