Wednesday, March 23, 2005
MINNESOTA’S EXPOSE ON ‘KINDERGARTEN READINESS’
Nebraska is on the brink of instituting a government-controlled early childhood education system that will wreak the same kind of havoc on children ages 0 to 5 as the nationalized, dumbed-down “school deforms” of standardized, outcome-based education did to K-12 public education in the 1980s and ‘90s.
Public hearings are set by the State Department of Education for Tuesday, April 26, in Lincoln, North Platte and Scottsbluff that would erect the cornerstone of this new early-childhood edifice, mandatory all-day kindergarten. To review what’s proposed, send your comments, or plan to attend, see http://www.nde.state.ne.us/APAC/Rule10HearingDraft030405.htm
Oh, how I wish we had Dr. Karen R. Effrem of Minnesota here to blast all of this out of the water. She’s the pediatrician and pharmacist from the Twin Cities who is doing such a great job in Minnesota and nationally in explaining what’s wrong with government-controlled, public school-based, early childhood education.
See her excellent Feb. 24 testimony opposing two Minnesota bills similar to what’s proposed in Nebraska, “Testimony in Opposition to SF 673 and SF 949,” on the great Minnesota-based grassroots website, www.EdWatch.org
Besides mandating all-day kindergarten for all public-school districts by 2008-09, increasing the time in school for 5-year-olds from 400 hours to 1,032, Nebraska educrats want to force standards for curriculum and teacher training on early childhood education the way they’ve forced those boilerplated, dumbed-down, nationalized “standards” on K-12 schools.
That means somebody like me – a college graduate whose eldest daughter is graduating from a top East Coast college this spring as a Phi Beta Kappa – wouldn’t be “qualified” to teach toddlers, because I lack the training credential specified by the ultra-leftist National Association for the Education of Young Children.
Never mind all their radical political ideas, which they inflict on kids with their curriculum and philosophy. Let’s just talk about their approach to early childhood academics. I learned this from Dr. Effrem’s articles, among other sources:
The NAEYC is against grouping kids by ability. So a very bright 5-year-old who’s already reading will have to spend all day in kindergarten doing non-literate “activities” with kids who aren’t even sitting still yet, and don’t even know or care about the alphabet.
The NAEYC is also against teaching kids anything at all. Instead, they’re supposed to be left alone to “discover” everything for themselves. That’s why public kindergartens today are “child-centered” rather than “teacher-directed.” They’re oriented toward the group, not the individual child. There is no syllabus or curriculum guide with any meat in it. The kids are supposed to just “be” and “play.” It makes it a head-scratcher why the paid staff in these rooms are supposedly so high-skilled, then. As for the child’s learning, you don’t learn vocabulary, reasoning skills, problem-solving and how to behave from other little kids. At least not very well, and we have the test scores to prove it.
Last, but not least, the NAEYC has pushed “best practice” on public schools, and they’ve bought it, hook, line and sinker, even though it’s actually some of the “worst” ideas about working with precious young children. For example, “best practice” holds that helping kids see the relationships between written symbols for words, and the sounds those letters make when spoken, somehow quashes kids’ creativity and self-esteem. “Best practice,” according to the early-childhood educrats, is to allow a purposeless free-for-all and let kids “guess” at everything they undertake, from what words on a page say, to how to measure the weight of rocks. Naturally, most of the time, because of inexperience, they guess wrong – but they aren’t to be corrected, because that would quash their creativity and self-esteem, too.
Goofy! Surreal! Nuts!
And yet, if you look through early childhood education pages on the Nebraska Department of Education website, www.nde.state.ne.us, you see a growing infrastructure being put in place to seize government control of ages 0 to 5. Examples:
-- Rule 11, the state’s early childhood education regulations
-- State aid for all-day kindergarten and 28 subsidized preschool grants around the state, both of which would only grow in scope if the April 26 hearings don’t help stop them
-- The Early Childhood Interagency Coordinating Council
-- The “PreK to Grade 16 Initiative”
-- Parents as Teachers, the program with snoopy in-home social worker visits and micromanaging of parenting
As usual, the educrats are starting off with false cries of a “kindergarten readiness crisis” for disadvantaged kids. That’s why we “need” all these governmental programs. But of course, once in place, the mandates and regulations will soon sweep all children of all income levels and cognitive abilities under this rug. And you cannot believe the amount of social engineering and intrusive data collection that comes along.
But here’s how Dr. Effrem would refute each of the claims for why Nebraska’s babies have to be standardized at taxpayer expense:
-- There is no “kindergarten readiness crisis.”
According to a U.S. Department of Education study in February 2000 on 22,000 youngsters, titled “America’s Kindergartners,” 97% of incoming kindergartners are in good health, 94% are already proficient with numbers and counting, 92% are eager to learn, and 82% have solid pre-literacy skills already in place, such as phonemic awareness, the crucial threshold condition for learning to read that relates to the sounds that letters make, and knowing that print goes from left to right. Claims that our 5-year-olds are all educational basket cases and Nebraska taxpayers should subsidize state-controlled day-care and preschool or the next generation will all be stupid and turn to a life of crime are more ridiculous than a Dr. Seuss rhyme.
-- There’s no evidence that all-day kindergarten does anything other than provide free day-care for parents of 5-year-olds; doubling the time away from home at that age damages the child’s attachment to his or her parents for no good purpose and interferes with intellectual development.
Actually, according to the book Better Late Than Early by developmental psychologist, former school superintendent and former college president Raymond S. Moore, no legitimate research backs up the efficacy of compulsory education for young children. The rapid spread of infectious diseases among groups of young children, plus vision and hearing developmental differences, make group settings in which “learning” is supposedly taking place a bad idea in general.
Look at the damage that’s been done, particularly to boys, by forcing too much structured, out-of-home, tightly-regulated activity too early. That’s why so many are on Ritalin and so many hate school, have to have remedial education, aren’t leaders, misbehave, don’t read at grade level, hate to read in general, and are distracted toward amusements rather than pursuing the thrill of learning.
As Moore wrote, “the most powerful stimulus to a child’s development is warm, continuous mothering.” All-day kindergarten and “free” government day-care would make things worse, not better.
-- Claims that children’s brain development necessitates formalized preschool to maximize learning potential are bogus. The public is being deceived when taxpayer-subsidized early childhood education is sold as a necessity before the “window of opportunity” in brain development mysteriously closes.
Dr. Effrem cites studies from neuroscientists that explain that the brain studies that the educrats rely upon for those false notions were done on rhesus monkeys and laboratory rats – with far different developmental cycles and realities than human children.
The father of Outcome-Based Education, Benjamin Bloom, was deceptive when he said that half of the child’s intellectual capacity is attained by age 4 and that’s why early childhood education is necessary. The fact is, formalized “teaching” has nothing to do with the development of intellectual capacity. What children learn on their own time schedules instead of one forced on them is always learned better with far less anxiety, frustration and neurosis.
The only brain research that counts in terms of the link between early childhood and student achievement on down the road is that which shows that the more time spent reading or being read to, the higher the ultimate achievement in school and in life.
There also are dramatic differences in reading attitudes and abilities between kids who were read to a lot as itty bitties and those who were not.
It doesn’t take a massive bureaucracy, special training, billions of tax dollars or 40 hours a week to create a literate student who is well-behaved, loves to read and takes to learning like a fish to water. It takes time at home with Mom and Dad, and freedom, and peace and quiet. All the formalized preschool in the world can’t equal that.
I’m with Dr. Effrem: she says what we really need, instead of a huge Baby Ed superstructure, is to get rid of all the stuff that doesn’t work. Then we could afford to give families significant tax cuts so that moms can stay home full- or part-time with their kids, and give them a truly good head start on learning.
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