Kids pushed to learn too soon

Over the past 20 years or so, we have been told by politicians and educators that we must start teaching our children earlier so they can succeed. These people should read about child development and cognitive abilities. Pushing children to learn what they are physically and cognitively not ready for seems counterproductive.

I grew up in Philadelphia in the 1970s and attended a kindergarten where I learned life skills such as playing together, sharing toys, saying “please” and “thank you,” kicking a ball and – my favorite – coloring feathers, making them into an American Indian headband and prancing around the room. In Educational Psychology 101, these things are appropriate for this age group.

I have five children from age 31 to just turning 6, and I want to tell you that we are missing the big picture. My son is in kindergarten, and he is not learning anything like I did. He must spell his name, memorize various words, learn the alphabet – including sounds – and sit at his desk and be quiet. Our educational systems are telling us and our children that these things are important.

Needless to say, he isn’t doing too well – probably because, as anyone who has had boys or knows one can tell you, there are more important things for 6-year-old boys to do. He needs to watch the fly that sat on his hand, the butterfly that is flying past the teacher or, more importantly, the ants that found some food under the desk. These are things boys need to know!

Why are so many kids autistic? They’re not – they’re kids! They are doing the same thing children have done for years – enjoying life, because one day that stops. Why is it so important that we make it stop?

In 1977 I graduated with 24 credits, and I was accepted by every college I applied to. I found college boring, so I joined the Navy, became a nuclear operator and have not had a problem finding a job. My wife graduated in 1982 with 24 credits in Virginia, and was accepted by every college she applied to. My oldest daughter graduated from North Augusta High School in 1998 with 24 credits and attended the University of South Carolina. My youngest daughter is a student at Aquinas High School, and the requirement to graduate is 24 credits.

Over 30 years, the number of credits to graduate have not changed. I also looked at college-entry requirements and they were pretty much the same across the board (Georgia Tech requires 20 credits, and South Carolina requires only 19). If it’s so important that we start earlier and learn faster, why haven’t requirements changed?

If we are so concerned with the dropout rates of our children, maybe it is because we start them too early, which means they are tired of school earlier. Let kids be kids! They get to be adults the rest of our lives.

Tom Kohler

North Augusta, S.C.

 

(The author holds bachelor’s degrees in education training and development, and in nuclear engineering technology.)

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