Navigating Your Kids

Experiences and perspective on the School Years

Stop the Insanity: Drilling and Testing in the Early Years–Part 1

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IMG_3529I learned to read before I went to school.  It wasn’t because my mother stood in front of me with flash cards for hours every day.  It wasn’t because my dad prepared an advanced protocol for subliminal messaging during sleep.  It wasn’t because I went to an exclusive, cutting edge preschool (Ha….if you only knew!).  This was back in the day, in the rural South before there was kindergarten…..or pre-K…….or Head Start.  The answer is that I learned to read because by sweet, smart, not-too-much older sister came home from first grade and read her books to me…..and for some reason, it clicked.  For me, I was developmentally ready to read, for others it comes at a different time.  But that does not mean that early is better.  I’m still waiting for the developmental phase for singing to come to completion.

We are at a stage in public education in America when everything, every child,  every decision is driven by testing and data.  And data.  And testing.  And it doesn’t matter the stage of development, children are driven by the data and the test scores to conform, even down to kindergartners.  There is a steady stream of five and six-year-old kids sent into their pediatrician’s office,  whose parents, armed with volumes of ‘agenda’ notes, are repeatedly given the message that there is something wrong with their kids and they ‘need to be evaluated’. These developmentally normal kids end up in their physician’s office after having been expected to do developmentally inappropriate tasks, become frustrated, lose interest, ‘get off task’, and get punished. These kids, though sweet and polite, will not/cannot stay seated (so?),  are not interested in learning (what method? what material?), and even though they lose recess(the absolute wrong thing to do!),  have ‘silent lunch’ (now that’s a real character builder if I ever heard one), spend the day in the ‘Opportunity Room’(might just be better than the real classroom for some)— end up just not liking school.  Imagine that!  Never mind that these kids are bright, articulate, have a keen interest in dinosaurs and animals, and can tell you more than you know about a subject that interest them.  Never mind that these kids can sit spellbound for longer than anyone when looking at a book that interests them.  Never mind that they can build a working xylophone from Lincoln Logs or build a geometric structure from rolled paper.  Never mind that they can score highest in the class when evaluated one-on-one in class, but “It doesn’t count unless they can pass the ACRONYMOFCHOICE test on the computer.”

Oh, I see….makes much more sense to take away recess– where physical activity can stimulate the production of neurotransmitters for brain activity.  Replace those chemicals artificially, keep those kids in their seats and conforming focused.  Oh, I see…..makes much more sense to  insist that each and every child demonstrate knowledge on a multiple choice, easy-to-grade, computer-generated test–rather than an accurate assessment that truly assesses the child’s mastery of skills–and hold them back if they cannot conform.  Oh, I see…..this method of herding educating children in the early years encourages separation into clear-cut, easily distinguishable categories and makes it easier to progress through ‘the system’. Uniqueness is a distraction and should be discouraged.

Parents, you know more than you are led to believe and your gut feeling is, more often than not, accurate.  Teachers who know what is right probably need parents to take charge of this issue and demand change–you know what they say about excrement and a downward incline.  More to follow…..

Author: Frances

Frances Graham is a practicing pediatrician and mother of two teens with a keen interest in all aspects of education.

One Comment

  1. Love reading your blogs, the subjects are inner apple core and we need more seeds. Thank you and keep up the great work. -Brian S.

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