Sunday, May 3, 2009

Kinder-Cram

Students often think I'm exaggerating when I say the days of cookie, juice and nap time in kindergarten have been replaced with our pathological desire for standardized tests. Here's a great article confirming, and why tests at these early ages measure absolutely nothing of relevance regarding the future.

When I was a child, in the increasingly olden days, kindergarten was a place to play. We danced the hokey­pokey, swooned in suspense over Duck, Duck, Gray Duck (that’s what Minnesotans stubbornly call Duck, Duck, Goose) and napped on our mats until the Wake-Up Fairy set us free.

No more. Instead of digging in sandboxes, today’s kindergartners prepare for a life of multiple-choice boxes by plowing through standardized tests with cuddly names like Dibels (pronounced “dibbles”), a series of early-literacy measures administered to millions of kids; or toiling over reading curricula like Open Court — which features assessments every six weeks.

According to “Crisis in the Kindergarten,” a report recently released by the Alliance for Childhood, a nonprofit research and advocacy group, all that testing is wasted: it neither predicts nor improves young children’s educational outcomes. More disturbing, along with other academic demands, like assigning homework to 5-year-olds, it is crowding out the one thing that truly is vital to their future success: play.
Scrolling through the report, it becomes clear researchers have known for years that any perceived advantage kids enjoy in the early years of school is pretty much erased by the 4th grade. In other words, if your child learns to read by age 4, they aren't necessarily going to be gifted or ahead of the mean by the end of elementary school.

The insane desire to push children's learning at these early ages says more about the parents and their vicarious endeavors to live through their children than anything, and the writer also pins the blame on NCLB correctly.
The No Child Left Behind Act, with its insistence that what cannot be quantified cannot be improved, plays a role. But so do parents who want to build a better child. There is also what marketers refer to as KGOY — Kids Getting Older Younger — their explanation for why 3-year-olds now play with toys that were initially intended for middle-schoolers. (Since adults are staying younger older — 50 is the new 30! — our children may soon surpass us in age.)

Jean Piaget famously referred to “the American question,” which arose when he lectured in this country: how, his audiences wanted to know, could a child’s development be sped up? The better question may be: Why are we so hellbent on doing so?
We are creating a Testocracy in the U.S., where we measure a person's worth in society by how well they do on standardized tests. Talk about the ultimate in rat-control psychology.

It's also quite the irony, if you think of it: we rush kids to start preparing for Harvard when still in diapers, and then, after ruining their childhoods with rote memorization and tunnel-vision learning, the child graduates from college and society apologizes by saying it's OK to prolong adolescence into your 30's, 40's and beyond. By the time you realize what happened, you are using a walker and basically, well, screwed.

Talk about the ultimate in social control.

4 comments:

Adam Miller said...

Irony? The real irony is you posting this the day before finals. WTF? There are like 50 court cases...man.

Todd Krohn said...

Perhaps I should rephrase the "after they graduate from college" part of the post to "if they graduate..." Heh.

Good luck. When you're in law school one day, you'll thank me.

Adam Miller said...

Yeah, I know. If I ever go to jail I will truly thank you... I could be the Jailhouse Lawyer! (Bounds v Smith)

Adam Miller said...

And, sorry the first article was not meant to sound as rude as it does.