Jonah Lehrer, writing in Wired, makes an interesting point about the oft-cited High Scope Perry Preschool project, an experiment in Michigan that found short-term gains for poor African-American children enrolled in a high quality preschool program. Skeptics often note that the gains in IQ for students who participated in the high quality Perry Preschool slipped back after a few years, a critique that’s also made of Head Start and other early education programs.
But Lehrer notes that IQ may not be as important as other skills the students gained from preschool that were more durable, including self-control and grit. Kids in high quality preschool might not end up valedictorians, but perhaps they learned not to eat the marshmallow. As Lehrer puts it: “Preschool might not make us smarter – our intelligence is strongly shaped by our genes – but it can make us a better person, and that’s even more important.”