Recently, with the help of my adult children, their spouses and my granddaughter, we moved my elderly mother into a smaller space. This is the second time in two years this has been necessary. Each time the review of saved materials has fallen to me.
These trips down memory lane have been both sad and happy. This one was especially interesting. I discovered a hand written letter from my first grade teacher, Mrs. Nigh. For some perspective, I was in the first grade in 1953-4. (Okay, stop counting!!)
I had attended half-day public kindergarten the previous year. I can honestly say that I don’t remember too much about kindergarten, other than it was in the basement of the building, and I could hardly wait to “get upstairs.”
Education – circa 1953
The letter assured my mother that I was progressing nicely; that I had learned most of my letters and numbers, and Mrs. Nigh was sure I would do fine for the remainder of the school year. Oh, and for the remainder of the year, there would be a regular report card!
Now fast forward to 2016. My five-and-a-half-year-old grandson already knows his numbers and letters. He attends a relatively typical church sponsored pre-k four-hours a day, three days a week. I am currently tutoring a four-and-a-half-year old, who also attends a pre-school three days a week, but is having some trouble learning numbers and letters.
Although I’m not a member of the “The Greatest Generation”, mine did not do so badly. There was that moon landing thing. Computers. Cell phones. Microwaves. The Internet (sincere apologies to Al Gore!) Oh, and Woodstock!
Why is this important?
It is important because we were allowed to play. The greatest concerns – that I can remember – were did we share; did we take care of our toys and put them away; did we mind our parents; did we complete our little daily chores?
Somehow not knowing our numbers and letters by age five was not the end of the world.
Although changes in education began in the mid twentieth century, two events – in my humble opinion – that really were instrumental in generating change were 1) the creation of the U.S. Department of Education in 1972, and 2) the publishing of The Nation at Risk in 1983.
The federal government has this amazing talent to convince us that we are in danger of something, and that they must come in and create programs to save us.
Secondly, the government is also able to convince us that they, and only they, know what is best.
Has it worked?
Not so much. I won’t bore you with statistics, but the greatest change in the past 40 – 50 years is that local control of education no longer exists. Wa$hington dictates what happens in our public schools.
Last year I wrote about Finland which consistently is ranked very high in education in the world ranking. Children do not even begin formalized schooling until age seven.
So . . .
Although we all want our children to succeed, if they don’t know everything before they enter kindergarten, do not panic. As I have said many times, young children learn at very different rates and ways. Help them, encourage them, provide them with opportunities to learn, but don’t overload them with education. Let the education come to them.