Mrs Thrill brought this article to my attention yesterday. It’s about how schools these days are emphasizing following rules, math, and science at the expense of play time…in kindergarten. The author is a former kindergarten teacher-turned-education researcher and this is what he has observed:
The classroom I filmed had 22 kindergartners and one teacher. They were together for almost the entire school day. During that time, they engaged in about 15 different academic activities, which included decoding word drills, practicing sight words, reading to themselves and then to a buddy, counting up to 100 by 1’s, 5’s and 10’s, practicing simple addition, counting money, completing science activities about living things and writing in journals on multiple occasions. Recess did not occur until last hour of the day, and that too for about 15 minutes.
For children between the ages of 5 and 6, this is tremendous amount of work. Teachers too are under pressure to cover the material.
When I asked the teacher, who I interviewed for the short film, why she covered so much material in a few hours, she stated, “There’s pressure on me and the kids to perform at a higher level academically.”
I’ll emphasize here that this curriculum isn’t the teacher’s decision. It’s related to the “multiple assessments such as quarterly report cards, school-based reading assessments, district-based literacy and math assessments, as well as state-mandated literacy assessments” that are used to determine just how badly our schools suck at teaching kids stuff.
This isn’t isolated to any particular school. My own children, The Thrill-lings, are elementary school aged and they too not only had academic-heavy schoolwork in kindergarten, but they even had regular homework. Like, it’s not enough to deny them play time as school, but is it also necessary to limit it at home as well?
It bothered me to see my kids getting stressed out and developing negative attitudes toward school, especially so early on when I don’t think they should have been doing anything much more strenuous than finger-painting. I’d like to say that the people who have mandated these over-demanding standards ought be lined up and beaten like Asian United passengers.
Or am I wrong?
Looking at it from another angle, I can see that my children will face an insanely competitive global economy and job market. Perhaps 1/3 of jobs currently performed by humans will be automated. Thrill Jr, who just got to see Terminator and T2: Judgement Day for the first time last week, should already fully appreciate where events are heading. What jobs are left will be open to immigrants and workers overseas who can do it cheaper, in spite of anything Donald Trump has to say about it, as I see the trend.
It’s possible that the people who are setting our educational standards aren’t possessed by the vengeful spirit of BF Skinner and that they’re doing something right. Instead of breeding another generation of entitled “snowflakes” with high but unearned self-esteem, we will see millions of brilliant achievers. Scientists who defeat cancer. Engineers who land a man on Mars. Robotic designers who finally give me the affordable Phoebe Cates Edition Sex Droid I’ve always wanted. It can certainly be a brighter future for all of us.
They’ll have the know-how to bring us those new advancements, but will they have the creativity to envision them?
That’s hard to say. So I’d like to discuss it.
This is a Discourses post. There aren’t any right or wrong answers. Sure, there are lots of studies out there that can prove either side of the discussion is right, but feel free to share your own opinions and anecdotes.
Here are some some starter questions. You don’t have to answer any of them to participate in the discussion, but they can help get things going.
- Where do you stand on this issue? Do you prefer placing kids in as strenuous of an academic environment as early as possible or is it more important that we allow their minds to develop through creativity, play, and old-fashioned oh-my-God-can-we-just-let-them-fucking-be-kids?
- Given how competitive the work environment will be, do you think there will come a time that American children will find that their career options are mostly determined by how well they do in high school? Nowadays, GPA isn’t destiny. Anyone can always go back to college and start a new life. Do you see that changing?
- Is it really wise to push math and science on all children so soon? I mean, they can’t all be highly-paid software engineers can they? Shouldn’t we be assessing each individual child’s skills and “pushing” them in the right direction consistent with their strengths?
Please add your thoughts whether or not you’re a parent. Everyone has a stake in this.