Growing up, my late grandmother used to tell me that the first seven years of a child’s life would determine the way that person would behave as an adult — this idea has been explored extensively by television and film director Michael Apted in his Up series of films, which revisits a diverse group of individuals around England every seven years since they were seven years old — they are now all close to fifty.

There was a great opinion article in the Detroit Free Press about the idea that a good solid early childhood education helps prevent crime later on:

What happens in early childhood is the foundation for everything that follows. By age 5, as much as 90% of a child’s intellectual and emotional brain wiring has been set for life. Early nurturing experiences fire the synapses that determine intelligence and behavior. When a young child’s life is marked by poverty and deprivation, the brain fails to grow at its optimum rate, and the damage can be long lasting.

I was curious to look further into this concept of preventing crime with good childhood education and found an excellent article from the American Bar Association citing several reports that link the two. The most interesting of the group was as follows :

A study of Chicago’s Child-Parent Centers revealed that children who did not participate in their quality preschool programs were 70% more likely to be arrested for a violent crime by the age of 18.2 Researchers concluded that these programs could prevent up to 33,000 crimes by the time children participating enter into adulthood. This study showed that quality early childhood education programs could cut crime among juveniles by one-third.

I was dismayed by some of the comments I found on the Detroit Free Press article. Here is one of the less hostile ones I found :

Vernice and Leslie would like us to know that investing in early childhood education will pay off in the future even though is has returned very little on past investment. Makes for a nice soundbyte but so far, it’s a baseless claim.

When the world in which people live has been so wrought with destruction and crime that it is all they can see, it is easy to understand the pessimism with which this article is viewed. People don’t want to see their taxpayer money go out to early childhood education, and so it instead goes to fund larger and larger prisons to hold the criminals. I would think that a good education would be a preferable way to spend taxpayer money.


  1. You provide some excellent warnings, Gordon. I have no idea when we became, as a nation, so horribly against the idea of education as important and as a way out of poverty. Our Founding Fathers were highly educated and multilingual men. We have fallen so far away from the original virtue of our society.

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