An Open Letter to Besharov and Call

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Last week, longtime ASCD member (since 1962) Milly Cowles called us to take issue with a recent New York Times op-ed by Douglas Besharov and Douglas Call, “Head Start Falls Further Behind.” The article calls for significant reform before further funding is allocated to Head Start. Cowles (a former Rutgers professor with an extensive background in early childhood education, including accrediting processes) and colleagues contributed the article “Four Views of Learning and Development” to the May 1971 issue of Educational Leadership on Early Childhood Education.

Cowles called Besharov and Call’s piece shallow and questioned its research base. She also wondered what’s happened to early childhood ed.’s strong philosophical underpinnings. “Besharov and colleagues talk about preparing kids for an abstract future, instead of looking at children’s needs,” said Cowles. “In their view, it’s the same dose for every child, regardless. We’ve left behind the purpose for programs like Head Start. Now it’s all about money and test scores.”

We e-mailed John Holland, who’s taught preK for 12 years (the past 7 of those in a Head Start program), to see what he thought about the article. Holland also blogs at Circle Time and Inside Pre-K. Holland takes the article to task for fudging funding and research facts. He also adds that while the direct education benefits to children are great, Head Start is primarily a social service program that is providing critical help to families living with poverty. Read his point-by-point rebuttal here.

So, who got it right: Besharov & Call or Cowles & Holland?