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The fix is (not) in

Want to fix American public education?

Give every child a tablet computer!

No.

Give every child emotional maturity instruction!

No.

Give every child a well-paid teacher!

No.

Well, what, then?

The New York Times Magazine devoted its pages to education on Sunday, and those suggestions stand out from others given by various "experts" in the articles.

None really resonated with me, though, like the comment piece that did not make it into the magazine but that was published on Page 5 in the Editorial section of the regular edition.

James J. Heckman begins with this sentence: "What's missing in the current debate over economic inequality is enough serious discussion about investing in effective early childhood development from birth to age 5." And then he makes his case.

Heckman is right. In another life as a journalist and community volunteer I had the good fortunte to be among a small group of people who got to see brain imaging research on young children that showed the effects of things like being read to, being held, being loved, being talked to. I became and remain convinced that early childhood education is critically important -- more important than anything else we could spend money on.

Instead, though, we are busy cutting Head Start and other programs for poor children.

A guy I knew once left me with a phrase I'll never forget: "It's a poor bird that dirties its own nest."

We are dirty birds indeed.

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