Sometimes I wonder if we’ve lost our collective minds when it comes to early childhood education. This morning, I found this well-written article, from January 2016’s Atlantic: “The New Preschool is Crushing Kids“. Thoughtfully written by author Erika Christakas, the idea that our education system has shifted from a “protected” childhood to a “prepared” one resonated. Ask educators and you will hear that what used to be taught in second grade, is now a requirement for first grade. First grade expectations are have moved down to kindergarten. And preschool? Yes, preschool is filled with academic skills. It’s the trickle down theory of education.
According to Christakas though, all of this new “rigor” may not translate into academic success.
New research sounds a particularly disquieting note. A major evaluation of Tennessee’s publicly funded preschool system, published in September, found that although children who had attended preschool initially exhibited more “school readiness” skills when they entered kindergarten than did their non-preschool-attending peers, by the time they were in first grade their attitudes toward school were deteriorating. And by second grade they performed worse on tests measuring literacy, language, and math skills.
Could it be that by forcing young children to perform academic skills at such an early age is killing their curiosity and love for learning?
Our schools seem to focus on the “cognitive potential” learners, even those of a very young age. When test scores are published and reported, we hear about gaps in achievement between advantaged and disadvantaged learners.
In my experience, such gaps are a function of a child who needs more time to experience the world, to learn the language used in school, to converse, to listen, and to experiment. It troubles me that in place of deepening and enriching the experiences of young children, young learners are subjected to more seat/paper/desk work. In an impatient rush to boost test scores and school ratings, there has been a misguided effort to push academic skills and concepts earlier and earlier at the expense of learning that is developmentally appropriate.
I was taught that just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. I believe our edu-crats need to take heed of this adage. More is definitely less for our youngest learners.