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.

  1. 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?
  2. 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?
  3. 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.

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I have a 8 year old and a 11 year old, and pretty much every evening they have homework to do. Usually it lasts about 30 minutes or so with the reading and worksheets. My oldest has learned to economize his time by doing the home work on the bus. And reading at home…this usually gives him Tim to help my youngest with his homework. Overall they do pretty good. The fist few years was hell. Between the common core style math and language arts crap we had meltdowns every other night trying to figure out what was required and… Read more »

kevinmkr

Mrsmkr and I are trying to expose Childmkr to as much as we can. I’m a big believer that the success you have further in life is mostly dictated by the number of things you can cram into your brain by the time you hit college. I think college (and your 20s, really) is for enhancing and sharpening your existing skills. You’re not going to pick up piano at 30 and become exceptional at it — you’re just not — no matter how motivated you think you are. You have a a job, perhaps a family, you have responsibilities and… Read more »

Zurvan

Between the common core style math

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santino

My youngest is in kindergarten. She has a workbook that she completes each week, 2 pages to practice her “wall words”. She also reads a book each week (usually 8 pages) and she fills out a “report” on it. The homework is not mandatory and if she gets frustrated we just stop doing it. The teacher also suggests not to correct any of her spelling. This takes away a lot of potential for anger and frustration. We just keep positively reinforcing her when she is doing her school work. My oldest is in grade 4 and she’s had homework maybe… Read more »

Unfortunately, more homework doesn’t always mean they’re learning anything…it’s about schools getting more money if the kids do “better.”

I think there’s too much emphasis on raising future geniuses than people who can do their jobs and make a living (assuming the jobs will still be there by the time they graduate.)

We’re obviously in NZ, so it may be a little different for us – out kids are 4 and 6 (so at Kindy and I guess you’d call it 2nd grade?) My philosophy is that Kindergarten gives you a good idea of the type of learner that your kid is going to be. My oldest is a complete bookworm. Always has been. She isn’t ever really happy with not understanding or being the best at something. So at her Kindy she was kind of pushed – but mainly because that was her personality type. She’s doing great and is really… Read more »

mashav

I grew up in a pretty intense school system, there was lots of academics and little play starting in 1st grade. Kids can handle the pressure. Now, if you also load them up with all kinds of extracurriculars, it might be too much. My firstborn was in a Reggio program and is now in a Montessori. Reggio felt too hippie, since there was so little structure, but she did suddenly decide to start reading there, so I can’t stay totally skeptical. Things come easily to her (she just told me in a bored voice ‘You know I never study for… Read more »

santino

I think there’s too much emphasis on raising future geniuses

As we like to say, there’s nothing wrong with being average.

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