There's a good little piece by Valerie Strauss at the Washington Post blog concerning our society's approach to kindergarten, especially that of the state schools.
Kindergarten readiness tests are nothing new. What is is the ever-increasing focus on turning kindergarten, and now preschool, into academic environments with the aim of ensuring that children can read by the time they are in first grade. In fact, kindergarten is the new first grade when it comes to academics.
For some kids, learning to read in kindergarten is just fine. For many others, it isn’t. They just aren’t ready. In years gone by, kids were given time to develop and learn to read in the early grades without being seen as failures. Even kids who took time learning how to read were able to excel. Today kids aren’t given time and space to learn at their own speed. Writer Alfie Kohn wrote in this post about concerns he has about the new calls for universal early childhood education. Why? Because when people talk about “high-quality programs,” they often mean academic programs, meaning the academic focus is being pushed down to younger and younger kids.
Very few people are talking about the kind of education that would be offered — other than declaring it should be “high quality.” And that phrase is often interpreted to mean “high intensity”: an accelerated version of skills-based teaching that most early-childhood experts regard as terrible. Poor children, as usual, tend to get the worst of this….I'm not a fan of kindergarten. It's only real utility seems to be as a robust kind of daycare for families where both parents work. And I'm not a fan of daycare or both parents working either. So I'm bound to have a jaded and cynical take on all this.
The Post's blog post mentions corporate involvement in all this. It's not just the State. So let's understand that all this academic "pressure" is not actually pressure to excel or improve. It is pressure to conform to standards that help create wee little worker bees.
I teach adults, but have recently begun working at an after school care place in the afternoons. As a homeschooling father of homeschoolers, I here reveal to you the thing that most amazed me about these kids (who, by and large, are super-duper great). They can get in line like nobody's business. They know how to be herded.
That, in my humbly radical opinion, is what government school is all about.
So we're now going to hand over out kindergarteners to be poked and prodded? I believe you should resent all these tests.
In place of discovery and exploration, tots are trained to sit still and listen, to memorize lists of letters, numbers, and colors. Their success or failure is relentlessly monitored and quantified, and they’re “reinforced” with stickers or praise for producing right answers and being compliant.Look, I'm all about, besides discovery and exploration, plenty of memorization for little ones. But is our goal to produce institutionally compliant children? Because that is what we seem to be producing.
As a last aside, in order to bring this a little closer to this blog's manly purposes, may I mention that this ratchets up the pressure in the so-called "War on Boys", the name given to the phenomenon in which schools reward typically girly behavior and punish typically boyish behavior. This creates an atmosphere in which boys tend to opt out during the early years of education. Ask yourself who will be more likely to want to comply and earn stickers and memorize to please the teachers. Then ask yourself who's going to get labeled the dumb kid, and end up thinking that he is dumb.