Gone are the days when children were given the opportunity to learn through play, and experimentation - all of that has been replaced with hours and hours of "academic" skills and drills work and Common Core learning.
I've covered this issue before in a piece entitled How Is Common Core For Kindergartners Not Child Abuse? but the topic came up again this morning in a Valerie Strauss piece at the Washington Post in which she writes how much more effective play-based education is for young children:
Anybody paying attention to school reform knows that kindergarten today is nothing like it used to be. Kindergarten schedules used to be dominated by play, but there’s not much time — if any — for that any more in many programs. Play has been replaced with reading, writing and arithmetic — and a slew of tests on reading, writing and arithmetic. There is so much pressure on teachers to get kids in kindergarten — who can be 4, 5 or 6 — academically oriented that some teachers have stopped offering a snack because there just isn’t any time. Recess? That’s gone in some places too.
Play, you may be surprised to learn, is actually the way young kids learn best. According to this report titled “Crisis in the Kindergarten” by the non-profit Alliance for Childhood:
Long-term research casts doubt on the assumption that starting earlier on the teaching of phonics and other discrete skills leads to better results. For example, most of the play-based kindergartens in Germany were changed into centers for cognitive achievement during a wave of educational “reform” in the 1970s. But research comparing 50 play-based classes with 50 early-learning centers found that by age ten the children who had played excelled over the others in a host of ways. They were more advanced in reading and mathematics and they were better adjusted socially and emotionally in school. They excelled in creativity and intelligence, oral expression, and “industry.” As a result of this study German kindergartens returned to being play-based again.
Strauss goes on to post some kindergarten schedules from around the country to show how little "official" play is programmed into kindergarten these days, then notes that there may by be even less play happening in kindergarten classrooms than what is officially scheduled "because academics often runs into non-academic blocks, meaning that kids sometimes can’t go to recess or paint a picture because there is no time."
Last year, the NY Post reported that many kindergarten children are feeling stressed out over the Common Core standards and academic learning that is being forced on them:
“For the most part, it’s way over their heads,” a Brooklyn teacher said. “It’s too much for them. They’re babies!”
In a kindergarten class in Red Hook, Brooklyn, three children broke down and sobbed on separate days last week, another teacher told The Post.
When one girl cried, “I can’t do it,” classmates rubbed her back, telling her, “That’s OK.”
“This is causing a lot of anxiety,” the teacher said. “Kindergarten should be happy and playful. It should be art and dancing and singing and learning how to take turns. Instead, it’s frustrating and disheartening.”
At the time, the DOE spokesperson responded that it was just too damned bad if the children were getting stressed out and anxious over their classes - this is WHAT they needed to do in order to be competitive in a global marketplace in the future:
DOE spokeswoman Erin Hughes said, “These are the types of activities and exercises that students need to work on to acquire the skills they need to be ready for middle school, high school, college and careers.”
But of course we know from much research - including that cited by Valerie Strauss in her Washington Post column - that what children need in order to be successful is play-based kindergarten.
Children who attended the play-based kindergartens over the kindergartens that stressed academic skills were, by the age of ten:
more advanced in reading and mathematics and they were better adjusted socially and emotionally in school. They excelled in creativity and intelligence, oral expression, and “industry.”
Here in the United States, we have gone in the opposite direction, at least for the vast majority of children.
The offspring of the elite continue to attend play-based kindergartens, of course, where they get to play and experiment to their heart's content and soak up all the play-based learning they need.
It's the rest of the country's children - the 99% who can't afford the elite schools - who are being subjected to the Common Core reform agenda that is stressing out and sickening children.
I think it is high time we begin to charge the education reformers who push this kind of academic malfeasance on little children with child abuse.
Last year I wrote:
Remember the Robert Fulghum book from years ago called "All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten?
In that book, Fulghum wrote that every lesson that you really need from life is taught to you when you're in kindergarten:
Most of what I really needThat's what used to be taught in kindergarten.
To know about how to live
And what to do and how to be
I learned in kindergarten.
Wisdom was not at the top
Of the graduate school mountain,
But there in the sandpile at Sunday school.
These are the things I learned:
Don't hit people.
Put things back where you found them.
Clean up your own mess.
Don't take things that aren't yours.
Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody.
Wash your hands before you eat.
Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
Live a balanced life -
Learn some and think some
And draw and paint and sing and dance
And play and work everyday some.
Take a nap every afternoon.
When you go out into the world,
Watch out for traffic,
Hold hands and stick together.
Be aware of wonder.
Now under the Gates/Broad/Murdoch/Obama/Bloomberg/Cuomo/Klein/Rhee/Duncan/Bush education reform movement, they don't teach any of those things anymore.
Instead they teach how to get an eating disorder or a drug habit or an alcohol problem or workaholism or a shopping compulsion or OCD or a sex addiction or neurosis or any number of other issues because your kindergarten years have had all the joy and fun taken out of them and have been replaced with high stakes testing, higher order math and language lessons, and cutthroat competition with your peers.
It's not a mistake that the same oligarchs who have brought this insane Common Core to fruition do not send their kids to schools that use Common Core.
They send them to Waldorf schools.
Or Quaker schools.
Or Montessiori schools.
Or the Lab School.
You know, the kinds of schools that aren't run like army drill camps, where the teachers aren't graded using test scores, where the kids don't take high stakes standardized tests all throughout the year, where students get to explore meaningful subjects and lessons rather than endless test prep and drills.
The Common Core Federal Standards are tantamount to child abuse and we need to take the people promoting these things to court and charge them with crimes against humanity.
It's not a mistake either that the people who promote this abusive and authoritarian education system are the kind of people who would fail a standardized test based upon Robert Fulghum's book.
They never learned how to get along with others.
They never learned how to share.
They always need to win.
They always need things their way.
They like to hurt people (or fire them publicly on TV.)
And they never clean up their own messes.
Fred Rogers is dead but I really wish he were around today so that he could take the lead in exposing these Common Core Federal Standards for the garbage they are.
And I believe he would do just that.
Let's channel Fred Rogers and Robert Fulghum and John Dewey and Charles Dickens and Howard Zinn and George Carlin and all the other people who taught us that education is about more than testing and drilling, who taught us that education does not come out of a book but comes out of real world experiences with other people and other beings.
Let's start by charging NYSED Commissioner John King, the education reformer who sent his own children to play-based schools even as he works overtime to make sure your kids have no time for play, just skills and drills, with child abuse for the state's education reform agenda.
Let's charge Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch with child abuse as well.
And while we're at it, let's charge Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, the man who told us he would be the "students' lobbyist" a few years back during a State of the State speech, with child abuse as well.
These three people have instituted policies that are harming the children of this state and they need to be held accountable for them.
I know there are plenty of other reformers that ought to be brought up on charges too - from Obama to Duncan, Broad to Gates, Bloomberg to Klein.
But let's start with the three most powerful education reformers in this state and take it from there.
Wouldn't you like to see these three people in prison where they can have their play privileges taken from them?
And maybe then we can get the message across that harming children in the name of so called education reform will no longer be tolerated in this country.