Expectations of Formal Schooling

New York Times web site comments, for instance on the language-gap study article here, are for people to publicly align themselves with the most anodyne beliefs imaginable, not for raising points of debate.

My dad and I have discussed this several times. I am always struck by the limited vision of people who home-school, such as blogger Penelope Trunk; they don’t believe in school but they believe in the reward system that our society has developed. Did they think that somehow there is a shortcut? What lesson does this teach their kids, that special people (like them!) don’t have to check all the boxes in order to achieve the reward of being a doctor or philosopher?

These kinds of studies take for granted that everyone wants their kids to reach the same goal. There’s more than one box of apples at Fine Fare.

I have befriended lots of people who never went to school at all and never learned to read, and they were and are good people, worth emulating in many ways.

On the subject of the study itself:

These kinds of studies have two typical problems, and this particular one has at least one, small sample size. Only 48 kids were studied, 20 rich ones and 28 poor ones.

The other problem can be inferred from this sentence from the press release:

By 18 months of age, toddlers from disadvantaged families are already several months behind more advantaged children in language proficiency.

Understood that the average of rich kids is probably higher than the average of poor kids, but how widely distributed are the scores? It could be that there is substantial overlap between the two groups, which renders the study useless for predictive purposes.

Also unclear is how the kids in either group were recruited, since 18-month-old kids don’t answer the telephone or browse Craigslist, there is probably a substantial bias toward families who are proud of their kids’ language-acquisition skills and willing to spend time to showcase them.