The conviction that the best way to prepare children for a harsh, rapidly changing world is to introduce formal instruction at an early age is wrong. There is simply no evidence to support it, and considerable evidence against it. Starting children early academically has not worked in the past and is not working now.
—David Elkind, Professor of Child Development and author of Reinventing Childhood and The Hurried Child
School reform, the underhanded drive to privatize education into free market, choice schools (many profitmaking), has had a negative effect on children and their development.
Here is the most recent research by Stanford researcher Martin Carnoy who analyzed 25 years of research and found that voucher programs do not significantly improve test scores. Carnoy says vouchers distract from proven policies and programs with proven impact on test scores and graduation rates.
By claiming that public schools are the “status quo” (often stated by DeVos and other school reformers) it is implied that they failed, along with the children in them.
This is a false argument. It is used to condemn public education. Even though public schools are sorely underfunded, especially poor public schools, many of them still succeed!
Most of us know that even when public schools improve their test scores, the school reformers up the ante and their claims are that children still aren’t doing well enough when it comes to learning.
So, in order to condemn public schools, children are pushed harder, lose out on the arts and other important subjects, miss recess, and a whole lot of other learning experiences that make for quality instruction.
School reformers, who, like Betsy DeVos, have never been teachers and know little about child development, hurt children—even though they might think they are helping them.
Condemning public schools we hear the repeated claim that children fail. Public schools and teachers are blamed.
But children also hear these messages:
- You fail to keep up.
- You fail at testing.
- You fail at reading.
- You fail at history.
- You fail to behave.
- You fail at STEM.
- You fail to stay on task.
- You fail to graduate.
- You fail to pay attention.
- You fail to ask questions.
- You fail to complete school.
- You fail to attend college.
- You fail to have grit.
- You fail to do rigorous work.
And on it goes.
Children are said to fail in their public schools when they have not failed!
But this message is used to not only shutter public schools and condemn teachers, but to push students to learn faster—beyond their age and development.
If children are taught they are failing, the only way out is to work harder and faster and learn more!
School reformers like to associate this false school failure with the economy, when we all know that children and their public schools have had nothing to do with the problems found in the economy.
Yet here we are. Without any regulations to stop school reformers like DeVos, and there have been many before her, from interfering with public education, now kindergarten is called the new first grade.
Early childhood experts know that when young children miss out on the conditions and activities critical for growth and development at this age it will have repercussions.
Yet, school reformers have been permitted to use this failure message, not only to push children, but to transform schools into all-technology and other privatization ventures.
Their school reforms have little backup when it comes to real research.
This can’t help but change children and not in a good way.
For example, according to the Alliance for Childhood, we’ve known since 2000 that too much computer use with children is a hazard. We’ve also known about testing causing stress in children.
And children are still denied play. How does that affect them?
Consider that, in the 1940s, if you took a 3-year-old, a 5-year-old, and 7-year-old and asked them to stand still, the 3 year old could not stand still long. The 5-year-old could stand still a little longer, but not by much.
The 7-year-old, however, could stand still for a long time.
In 2001, when psychologists replicated this experiment, they got different results.
They found that the 7-year-olds couldn’t stand still any longer than a 5-year-old could in the 1940s. The 5-year-old was like a 3-year-old and couldn’t stand still at all.
How children learn matters to their development.
When children are told they are failures, and when they are pushed to learn beyond their development, when activities like play are taken out of a young child’s life, there will be consequences.
In the next few weeks I will be especially looking at research to find how school reform has impacted young children—their behavior and their learning ability.
If you run across studies of this nature, or feel comfortable sharing a personal experience, it would be appreciated. I will give you credit, or you can remain anonymous.
Or, the older one. HERE.