Saturday, October 15, 2011
Everyone who has ever studied it, everyone with early childhood teaching experience, will tell you that unstructured play is the developmentally appropriate way for young children to learn. The work of people like Lev Vygotsky and Jean Piaget proved this over a century ago, and nothing has happened since then to disprove the basic principles of the educational centrality of play.
Otherwise responsible, thoughtful people, however, from all corners of the political spectrum, today continue to push for more and more high stakes academic testing at younger and younger ages in the face of absolutely zero evidence to indicate that this approach can have any kind of positive outcome for kids. In fact, despite the mountain of evidence that this type of testing has negative effects on real learning and normal development in young children, half of US states now test kindergarteners, and others are planning to follow suit. If you listen to what they’re saying you begin to understand the forces that are warping their best judgement, choosing not what is best for children, but what is best politically and economically (at least in the short term).
This is the kind of indoctrination (it can hardly be called education) that large corporations want as they prepare for the low-wage, long-hour future that they predict for us. As the middle class continues to disappear, as social-mobility (at least upward social mobility) becomes the stuff of legend, and as the gap between haves and have nots widens, there becomes less and less need for actual citizens who might think too creatively, voice their own opinions too loudly, or otherwise object to calls of “austerity” from us and prosperity for them.
I used to think that we were just dealing with misguided crusaders and dilettantes, well-intended folks striving to give back, but no longer. There are powerful, wealthy people who want our children to be less well-educated, more obedient, and less likely to question; they are looking to our schools to create a citizenry that is so hard at work keeping their heads above water that they don’t have the time, or even the ability or knowledge, to speak for themselves. And now they are attempting to teach those nose-to-the-grindstone habits to our youngest citizens. I say no.