I wrote over the weekend about K-12 school standards and their inappropriateness.
A loud argument in favor of the standards is “kids need to be ready!”
Ready for what?
Preschoolers need to learn their letters so they’re ready for kindergarten. But we decided that they need that for kindergarten.
It’s top-down. We want them to know xyz when they graduate, which means they need this in 11th grade, this in 10th, and on down. (This leaves, in some cases, parents going nuts about where their kid is going for preschool, because of the trajectory to college. Seriously???)
As I mentioned the other day, this top-down thinking doesn’t take cognitive or emotional readiness into account.
It also never leaves space for us to be present, if we’re always looking ahead to what’s next. What about what’s now? Can we learn something and just enjoy it now that we know it? Can we take time and learn things just for fun? Can we learn that learning is fun, so we continue to pursue it when we’re not obligated?
We’re still operating in the mindset that created public schools over 100 years ago. The world is different. Jobs are different. Societal survival skills are different. What we know about human development (physical, mental, emotional) is different. Schools need to be different.
We need kids who can work with one another. We need kids who are creative. We need kids who are willing to be vulnerable (because you can’t be creative without vulnerability).
But teamwork, creativity, and vulnerability aren’t measurable on multiple choice tests.
We’re applying assembly line thinking to an era of opportunities that aren’t assembly line.
Also in the mix: we need to recognize and celebrate growth. A third grader who reads at a first grade level is seen by many as a failure and is a ding against a school’s competence. But if that child started the year without knowledge of the alphabet, completing the year at a first grade level is fantastic!
Teachers already know this.
(There is a solid handful of legitimate reasons why or how a child could get to third grade without being literate.)
Taking a small tangent…
I see such a drastic disconnect between “they need to be ready!” in an academic sense versus every other sense.
We (as a society) don’t teach our kids how to interact in a healthy way with other people. (As a society, we’re not very good at it, so it’s not taught or modeled for many many kids…)
We don’t teach our kids how to manage money. How to budget. To save. To prioritize. To value quality. To delay gratification. (I’ve heard many people say this should be taught in school, and it could be, but what about parents?)
We don’t teach our kids good food habits. Good movement habits. Good screen habits.
Don’t they need all of those things to be ready? Why is only advanced math and interpreting classic literature considered “readiness”?
Let’s reconsider what we need out of kids when they’re done.
Let’s take it a step farther and consider what we need out of kids if they drop out. What if we get them for 8 or 9 years instead of 13?
What do you think kids need that is appropriate for schools to provide? What should schools add, and what should they subtract, in your opinion?