Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Hyper-Schooling is Robbing Our Kids of a Carefree Childhood

Alison Gopnik's article at hits at the heart of why American education is failing our kids. Not only does it address the detrimental effects of excessive "schooling", but it makes it clear that standardized testing is hardly and effective gauge of intelligence. When you take these studies combined with other warnings, like the one released by the American Academy of Pediatrics, you start to get a more complete picture of what really ails our kids.

In the article, "Why Preschool Shouldn't Be Like School", new research shows that teaching kids more and more, at ever-younger ages, may backfire. The article focuses on how "direct instruction" may be effective at teaching skills and facts but is inadequate for fostering curiosity and creativity that are more important in the long run. The article is just another case where we hear evidence that the "experts" are changing their minds about what is best for kids, fortuneately it is in the direction of what parents have suspected all along. 

In the American Academy of Pediatric report another set of experts warn parents of the relationship between increased depression and anxiety in children and the lack of the simple childhood pleasure of play. The report states that "the national trend, to focus on the academic fundamentals of reading and arithmetic, spearheaded by No Child Left Behind, has decreased time left during the school day for recess, creative arts, and physical education." Compound that with extended hours in after-school programs that emphasize academics, the hours of unsupervised video gaming and constant T.V. and you have a recipe for a nation that cannot create, work, or think.

Reliance on the "expert" opinions of educators of the past has lead the Federal Department of Education to drown our kids in "testing". It has become an "established fact" by these same experts that our kids need more "instructional time", they need to go to be "schooled" at ever younger ages, they need to be in school longer each day and throughout the year, and they shouldn't miss more than a few days of school lest they "fall behind"!

We are told by education "experts" that our kids need this hyper-schooling or they will be unable to "compete" in the "global market place". Funding for birth to the grave "schooling" is ever increasing with the promise of preserving America's economic dominance. Whether reluctantly or passively, the majority of parents have gone along with the trend pushed by these "expert" opinions, believing that American kids are falling behind the rest of the world and that the tests were proof of it. questions the status quo, "How do you measure learning, anyway? Almost by definition, directed teaching will make children do better on standardized tests, which the government uses to evaluate school performance. Curiosity and creativity are harder to measure."

Perhaps we should look to the real "experts" our parents and "take it with a grain of salt". Why are we so quick as parents to just take what the "experts" say as rock solid fact when it goes against what our own excellent parents knew was best and our own natural instincts. I've had numerous conversations where the consensus was that our kids don't have the carefree childhoods that we had. Whose to blame for that?

Ultimately we are! We are the parents and like our parents before us, we have to do what is best for our kids no matter what "everybody else is doing." Take it from another "expert", my mom, who said, "if they decide to jump off a cliff does that mean your going to?" I'm not jumping off this cliff and I'm hoping I can convince others to put their feet on solid ground and start listening to their inner "expert" and trust their own common sense. Never mind the implied judgements that you're neglecting your child's "education". You're protecting their intelligence!

These articles should make us all STOP, and take a more critical look at the government agendas and cultural trends that push this hyper-schooling onto our kids. This trend may have negative implications for the social and emotional development of children and adolescents. What our kids need most is good quality time with their parents, plenty of good old-fashioned free time, and a lot less pressure to take on the full time job of "schooling" at five years old!

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