Technology can be a useful tool for early learning, but Utah’s over-reliance on it is shortsighted. Early childhood education is more than learning the letters of the alphabet or the proper names of colors. Quality early childhood education programs not only create a strong foundation for cognitive learning, but also foster lifetime character traits such as persistence, self-control and learning how to play well with others. These character traits lead to less teenage pregnancy, lower drug usage and less criminal behavior. Focusing on the provision of cognitive stimulation (through online learning) while ignoring the rest of the critical development necessary for a successful life is less expensive in the short-run, but will likely not have the long-run benefits of quality early childhood education programs. Over 40 years of research shows that quality early childhood education programs have a great economic return because they save money that would otherwise be spent on remediation, prison and other costs to society. While an online preschool program may be a good supplement to a well-developed early childhood education program, it is not the whole solution. I encourage policymakers to consider the research when choosing how to invest Idaho’s scarce education dollars.
Christine Loucks, Boise