This article from the New York Times pretty much sums up all my fears about Fletcher starting kindergarten next year. Things have really changed in recent years, and not, in my opinion, for the better. Fletcher is ready to learn and he is ready to be in school. No doubt about it. But he is still a very young child and young children learn through PLAY. I want him to have lots of time to play. Play at school, play at home, that’s what life should be right now. I want my children to grow up to be creative, expressive, intelligent people not just little machines that parrot back answers. And they are well on their way towards that goal already.
Last night at dinner I asked Fletcher to listen to a story and then I would ask him a question – it’s a dinner game we like to play sometimes but this one had a twist. The story goes something like this:
Pretend you are a bus driver. At your first stop 10 people get on. At the second stop 3 people get off and 2 more get on. At the next stop no one gets off but 4 more people get on. Now, what is the bus driver’s name?
Without hesitation Fletcher answered “Lightening.”
“Umm, no honey YOU are the bus driver.”
To which he responded that if he is pretending to be the bus driver then the bus driver’s name can be whatever he wants it to be and he wants it to be Lightening.
Well OK. Good answer.
But answers like that don’t fit well into standardized testing. He’ll learn, I suppose. There is a time and a place for everythiing, and I am trying to stay as open minded as possible. I just get so upset when people talk about our failing educational system, how our students are lagging behind, and the answer is ALWAYS more math and science, always more testing, always more pushing and less play. And I just feel with every ounce of my being that this is the wrong approach. The Times article sites that in Finland, where students consistently score at the top on international assessment, there is no formal reading instruction until age 7. Our culture is so completely the opposite of this approach, and I am as guilty as the next person. (I can not stop worrying about the fact that Lola Gray doesn’t know all of her letters despite the fact that she is obviously incredibly smart and I know she will learn them eventually . . .) But I don’t like it. I really, truly, strongly believe that the way to improve our educational standing in the world is to teach our children how to THINK. How to think for themselves, how to think creatively, how to think of things that have never been thought of before and then think of a way to make those things happen. Why is this such an odd concept? It kills me that the college freshman I teach seem, almost across the board, unable to think for themselves. They want to do everything right. Right is boring. Right has been done. And I’m not sure that doing things right every really got anyone anywhere exciting.
I’m ranting again and I know it. I’m going to stop now. For the moment anyway, but I’m sure the rant will continue . . .
“Play is the only way the highest intelligence of humankind can unfold.”
– Joseph Chilton Pearce