Starting Early

From the Alliance on Childhood:

Students May Be Disadvantaged by Starting School at 5 Years Old

“An Australian newspaper reports that the countries that did best in the much-respected PISA test started formal teaching at 6 or 7, not 5 as we increasingly do in the U.S. The article quotes David Whitebread, a Cambridge University expert in the cognitive development of young children, saying ‘overwhelming evidence suggests that 5 is just too young to start formal learning.’ He adds that children should be engaged in informal play-based learning until about age 7.”

Worth considering–but in fact most nations do have activities for younger children that they purposely don’t call school.  That’s why I wish we hadn’t gotten into the habit of calling it “pre-school”.  Kindergarten actually just means a kind garden.  It has now become or becoming first grade.  So I guess pre-K could maybe be our last chance to build-in the kind of playfulness that all schools should later honor.

And on another form of gobbledeegook language

“It’s important that we teach the new 21st Century skills of critical thinking, collaboration and problem solving.”

The quote above is just one of many like it that I run across daily in the literature of reform.
New skills?  What were they doing in the 18th and 19th century?  Or the lst century–B.C. I’ll bet cave men used these skills to solve their problems.  The new 21st century skills of critical thinking, problem solving are even practiced by infants. But, at best,  the phrase may be directed at schools.  It’s worth noting that the poorer the children the less such skills have been honored in schools, for as long as formal schooling was around and in the new “deforms” too. Fortunately, kids have always had plenty of time to practice these in the real world. Especially the poor. But they rarely feel comfortable bringing in the “habits of mind” they’ve been using outside of school into the schoolhouse. Except to solve the problem of how to “stay out of trouble” and sometimes “how to get into trouble” without losing face.

One Response

  1. In fact, Kindergarten was one such word for young children’s “work” before school. Good point!!! It’s part of our not respecting the work of Mothers’–as “teachers”. Gven the amounty of learning that tkes place for all children before 5, clearly mother’s “know” something that helps scaffold that remarkable development–and nanny’s, grandmothers, etc..

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