Preschool Education in America: The Culture of Young Children from the Colonial Era to the Present

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This comprehensive history describes policies and programs for the education of three-, four-, and five-year-olds in the United States from the colonial era to the present. It also traces efforts to make preschool education a part of the public school system and shows why these efforts have been rejected, despite increasing evidence that preschools are beneficial for all young children. Drawing on archival records, alumnae files, interviews, and many other sources, Barbara Beatty provides a portrait of preschool education that includes the experiences of children, parents, and teachers. She describes dame schools of the colonial period, the infant schools that were originally developed to instruct and provide day care for children of the poor, the private and public kindergartens of the mid-nineteenth century, nursery schools, and the various government programs for young children, including Head Start. Beatty concludes that for preschools to be universalized, there must be widespread acceptance of both young children's right to education and the intrinsic worth of preschools, as well as an understanding of the importance of early childhood education in our culture.