Malcolm Gladwell on Early Childhood Education | Conversations with Tyler

Malcolm Gladwell on Early Childhood Education | Conversations with Tyler


COWEN: Overrated or underrated, the idea of
early childhood intervention to set societal ills right?
GLADWELL: Overrated because to my mind it’s just another form . . . it became politically
impermissible to say that certain people in society would never make it because they were
genetically inferior. So I feel like that group, it’s like, “All right, we can’t
say that anymore. We’ll just move the goalpost up two years.” And we’ll say, “Well,
if you don’t get . . .” Or three years — “If you don’t get the right kind of stimulation
by the time you’re three, basically it’s curtains.”
Why is that argument, which we decided we didn’t like it when they set the goalpost
at zero, and somehow it’s super-important and legitimate and chin-stroking-worthy when
they moved the goalpost to three. Truth is, people, it’s not over at three any more
than it was over at zero. There are certain things that it would be nice to get done by
the age of three. But if they’re not, the idea that it’s curtains is preposterous.
It’s the same kind of fatalism that I thought we had defeated in the . . .
If you want to say that the goalpost should be at 30, then I’m open to it.
[laughter]

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