Thursday, July 27, 2006

Why Don't Ya Just Get a Job Already?

While perusing reality-based educator, I couldn't help but notice that instead of the subversive commie propaganda I've come to expect from him, he actually wrote about education. RBE was discussing this story, about a charter kindergarten where the kids have no toys, no blocks, and spend their time doing grammar drills, phonics drills, arithmetic drills, and the like.

Now when I was in kindergarten, we spent a great deal of time blowing bubbles in our milk, and several of us actually turned out alright. Still, things are different nowadays.

My daughter had to take a multi-day standardized test in kindergarten called Terra Nova. She got excellent reading scores, which I found curious since she most certainly did not know how to read. A further look at her scores, though, left me in some distress--she had no language skills whatsoever. Naturally, it being a standardized test, I believed every word of it, and focused all blame on her teacher (OK, not really).

The teacher explained to me that this pattern was the same with most of the class. They took the "reading" test the first day,and the "language" test the last, by which time their 5-year-old attention spans had pretty much had it.

I thought that was taking things a bit too far. Achievement First East New York Charter School takes things even further, and the kids, apparently, are being trained to read at that age. I don't have any problem with that, but I'd like to very little kids eased into it a little more.

I liked my kid's kindergarten teacher very much, and got the feeling she shared my sentiments about the Terra Nova. It's a mistake to neglect socialization and play for young children. While my child was taught the alphabet in kindergarten, along with letter sounds, she spent a lot of time playing, and learning how to get along with her classmates. She formed a positive attitude about school that she still carries.

Pressing for too much too early can have bad results. I often think of one of my college students, a bright, soft-spoken and charming young woman, who told me her parents forced her to practice piano several hours a day from the time she was five. She was not permitted to stop until she left her country and came to New York. She adored New York, and hated music.

As for the charter, even the teacher had mixed feelings:

“Achievement First gives them a solid foundation,” she said.

But even as she took pride in her students’ progress, Mrs. Rattray betrayed ambivalence about the method. “If it were my own child,” she said, “I would want more time for play.”

Hope she doesn't get fired for that.
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