How to Use Professor Heckman’s Work

This is a two-page message framework advocates can use to motivate policymakers and other influentials to invest in quality early childhood education for disadvantaged children. This resource can be used as a guide for crafting persuasive talking points to business leaders, policymakers or other potential advocates.

The Message:

Nobel Memorial Prize Laureate Professor James Heckman has uncovered a new way of looking at the full picture of the development of human potential. He believes that there is too much focus on the development of cognitive skills where knowledge can be tested, rather than on the development of social skills—such as attentiveness, persistence and working with others. When social skills are combined at an early age with cognitive skills, they help create more capable and productive citizens.

Every child needs effective early childhood development to be successful, but disadvantaged children are least likely to get it. Professor Heckman has proven that investing in the early childhood development of disadvantaged children will produce great returns to individuals and society in better education, health, economic and social outcomes—not only saving taxpayers money but increasing our nation’s economic productivity. Everyone gains when we invest, develop and sustain the early development of America’s greatest natural resource—its people.

This message works because:

  • It changes the frame of investing in the disadvantaged from a discussion about rights and equities to an understanding about how to create social and economic enhancements that will benefit everyone.
  • It introduces a new concept that is just beginning to take hold in the American consciousness—our focus on strictly measuring cognitive achievement is undermining the development of American character, the ability to combine collaboration, creativity, and persistence with intelligence.
  • It frames the discussion as an investment that pays dividends and helps policymakers understand why and how to make an investment—and it helps the public see the value they receive from the investment even if their own children will not receive state or federal support.
  • Most importantly, the message is positive: we have an answer to the root causes of many problems, but it is framed as a root solution to developing better social and economic outcomes. Policymakers and voters are looking for answers. Framing your advocacy as a solution is much more effective than framing it as a litany of problems, complaints, and demands.