Do we Push Kids Too Far?

I learned to tie my tennis shoes in kindergarten. My kindergarten teacher also reinforced the values that my parents were teaching me at home: honesty, kindness, the art of sharing, and listening.  It wasn't easy for an energetic, like-to-be-in-charge kind of kid. I thought that taking a nap was a waste of time. Pouring unwanted milk down the drain was an act of kindness. And telling the teacher about the activities other misbehavers was my civic duty. Now, kindergarteners are screened (I would never have passed the screening process!). Primary kids are tested. Our expectations have changed because kids have changed. What? Did I read that right? Kids have changed? How? They still have two eyes, two ears, one mouth (thank heavens), two hands, and two legs. They still laugh, cry, and tattle. They need a safe, structured environment. They need to be praised, loved, and disciplined. Oh, I admit that they know things I was blissfully unaware of. They have to be warned about strangers and walking alone and eating unhealthy foods They have to be monitored because of a new kind of danger- cyber stalkers. I get that.  I'm actually surprised that I survived to adulthood. Okay, that is a stretch. My parents were super vigilant, always holding me accountable, no nonsense, we-have-to-meet-the-parents, and you're-not-doing-that-just-because-everyone-else-is kind of parents. They knew where I was and what I was doing even when I didn't think they did. But, I did have a childhood. I laughed. A lot. I played. I had an imagination which I used at times to the dismay of my parents and teachers. I created and learned things that were important to me. These things also turned out to be important to my later learning experiences.

While other countries are letting their students enjoy recess and play time, students in American schools are being drilled.  While other students are exploring, American students are being asked to make a career choice- at the tender age of 12 (or younger). Shouldn't we spend some time letting students explore and develop critical thinking skills? Or, demonstrating manners and behaviors that are socially acceptable. I don't mean politically correct. I mean socially acceptable. What about those skills that I learned that were important to my later experiences?  Are we giving our children the opportunity to develop these skills naturally or are we forcing skills on them that we deem important?

 It seems that numbers and test scores have trumped the value of childhood.  We let everyone win so that our children won't know the pain of losing.  We exchange structure and discipline for empowerment. Children who are not old enough to practice self-control or make difficult decisions are being empowered.  We use the word empowerment like it is a form of praise.  We tell them that they are empowered, but we offer no direction or guidance.  We experiment with new forms of learning that are simply  a new name for  old educational practices that didn't work the first time. We try new grading practices that will have attached meaning without damaging a child's self-esteem when in truth they take away all meaning and end up doing far worse damage.

Let's rethink this. We need to stop trying to get ahead of the world educational game. Our kids are not game pieces. They are precious people entrusted to our educational expertise. Maybe it is time that we actually used some common sense expertise by taking back the meaningless and damaging educational buzzwords and replacing them with kid-friendly, time-tested practices.

It is that time of year! Check out these Non-Fiction resources for your classroom!
Non-Fiction Reading Folders
Non-Fiction Halloween Folklore Task Cards
Non-Fiction Pumpkins & Halloween Task Cards
Non-Fiction New Salem Witch Trials Task Cards

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