By John D. Sutter, CNN
(CNN) - There's a hilarious episode of the sketch comedy show "Portlandia" where two hipster parents give their preschool age kid a presentation about his future.
The kid, Grover, half-watches as mom and dad pull up two stock market-style charts: One shows his fortunes going up and up if he attends Shooting Star preschool; the other shows what happens if he fails to get in: a plunge into violence, shoplifting and poverty.
"The last thing I want is you out there, you know, shooting squirrels and birds for dinner," says the mom. "If we don't get you into that Shooting Star private preschool, you're gonna end up at a public school with a bunch of riffraff."
She adds: "We're gonna get you into preschool. We're gonna get you into college. We're going to get you some money. And we're gonna get you whatever you want!"
The skit is great because it's based in truth.
Yes, elite preschool admissions are perfectly absurd, but the benefits of preschool are seriously significant. Researchers in North Carolina and Michigan have spent decades following kids who attend preschool and comparing them with control groups of kids who didn't. While preschool, of course, does not single-handedly determine whether a kid will be successful and happy or end up shoplifting with the riffraff, on the whole the studies suggest the early schooling can reroute lives for the better.
The "Portlandia" charts are kind of real.
By John D. Sutter, CNN
(CNN) - Should young children be able to use Facebook?
And if so, under what conditions?
Those are the questions bloggers and Twitter users are batting around the Internet on Monday following a news report saying Facebook is looking into ways it could let kids under the age of 13 use the site with parental consent.
Currently, Facebook bans children younger than 13.
Data from Microsoft Research and Consumer Reports, however, show that many kids use the site anyway, often with their parents' knowledge. A 2011 Consumer Reports survey found 7.5 million people younger than 13 use the site; nearly a third of 11-year-olds and more than half of 12-year-olds use Facebook with their parents' knowledge, according to a 1,007-person survey supported by Microsoft Research.
Proponents of lifting Facebook's under-13 ban say letting young kids on Facebook with the help of adults would allow them to use the social network more safely.
"Whether we like it or not, millions of children are using Facebook, and since there doesn't seem to be a universally effective way to get them off the service, the best and safest strategy would be to provide younger children with a safe, secure and private experience that allows them to interact with verified friends and family members without having to lie about their age," Larry Magid writes at Forbes.com.
by John D. Sutter, CNN
(CNN) - Apple on Thursday announced a new platform for creating and reading digital textbooks.
A free app called iBooks Author lets anyone create an interactive e-book for the iPad.
"In like five minutes flat, we created an e-book and deployed it to the iPad. I hope you find that as inspiring and empowering as I do," Apple's Phil Schiller said at a press conference at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, according to live blogs of the event posted online.
Apple also debuted an app called iBooks 2, which features interactive textbooks for students.
In another demo, Apple's Roger Rosner showed off textbooks for the iPad that allow students to zoom into pictures of cells, dissect digital frogs and make notes and highlights on the e-book pages.FULL STORY