Somewhere along the line we’ve decided that robbing our children of their youth is an acceptable trade-off for seeing them graduate at the top of the class or ace the SAT, and while I agree that we must stress the importance of education to our children, there comes a time when it can pose a threat to the overall development of a child.
What children were learning as six-year-olds during the ’70s and ’80s is now being taught to three, four and five-year-olds. Sound good?
Don’t be so sure. At this very crucial time in a child’s life when he should be learning about how he fits into his world and the world of others, he spends most of his time memorizing numbers and the alphabet. A child’s formative years, ages 2-5, are years that are crucial to forming the foundation of who they become as adults. Unfortunately, there’s no pause button on life, and in our rush to make our kids academically smarter, we’re producing adults with poor interpersonal skills. Barbara White makes a good point when she writes, “Interpersonal Skills – adults, with eyes to see, can learn so much about success in life from children. Children have a fresh uncluttered approach to life. They respond from the heart, and not from the head, and have a clarity and perception that we often lose as adults” (White, para. 1). It’s no wonder that mental illness is on the rise as these children, who have no idea how to interact with others, grow into adults.
Creativity is quickly becoming extinct with the push of academic intelligence in our children. Instead, we’re becoming a nation full of bored children who turn into boring adults. Everywhere I go, I hear kids talking about how bored they are, and how there’s nothing to do. They know how to read, write, add and subtract, but have no idea how to create or pretend. What happened to the days when a pile of dirt turned into roads for our toy cars or when we made our own music with beat-up pots and pans and a wooden spoon? Gone are the days when you forgot about dinner because you were building tents with blankets or pretending you were on a treasure hunt in your back yard. I find irony in the fact that by molding our children to be successful in our first-world corporate society, we are in danger of losing the Albert Einsteins and Thomas Edisons who were responsible for so much of what we deem “progress.” If creativity is the fuel for invention, our nation is going to be in a sorry plight when it comes to future advancement.
And what about the more damaging effects of pushing our children to grow up too quickly? Teenage suicide statistics in the U.S. paint a frightening picture. Suicide is the third leading cause of death from ages 10-24. Over 10,000 teens commit suicide every year and the rate of teenage suicide has increased by over 300% in the last 25 years. One of the higher risk groups includes young people who are perfectionists and overachievers. Still, we fail to get the message. It seems that we, as parents, are the ones who are need to go back to school if we can’t interpret those numbers. Our children are killing themselves because they’ve failed to live up to the person they think we want them to be. It seems there’s a high price to pay in exchange for pushing our kids to be the high school valedictorian or pinning all of our hopes on their athletic scholarship.
At the very least, a compromise needs to be reached. The primary focus of structured daycare programs should be peer interaction rather than kindergarten preparation. Keep the academics to a minimum. Primary colors, simple numbers, and the alphabet song should be the extent of the classroom experience. Make more time for coloring, artwork, and pretend time. Bring back the building blocks and play kitchens. Kindergarten should become more like the literal interpretation in German, a “children’s garden.” Begin compulsory education, but introduce it slowly and in a way that is still fun for five-year-olds. If this is unacceptable, perhaps it’s time for the return of half-day kindergarten allowing children to still have free time for play.
Obviously, new material should be incorporated with the progression of each grade. But the gap between grades is becoming increasingly larger every year because of the colossal amount of new subject matter being introduced. The gap has become so large that sixth-graders are being introduced to college material. What’s next? Elimination of colleges and universities? Or are we going to keep raising that bar as well?
The argument that we must produce graduates that can compete in a society of rapidly changing technology is in itself invalid. Veterans of various professions are required to complete CEUs (Continuing Education Units) in order to maintain licensure or certification proving that learning doesn’t suddenly cease after graduation.
Ultimately, our failure to teach our children about all aspects of learning will lead only to our demise. With regards to education, quantity doesn’t equal quality, nor does the ability to recite information by rote indicate intelligence. It’s time to trade our parochial approach to education for something more extensive; obviously, the current educational trend is a formula for disaster.
White, Barbara. Success Through the Eyes of a Child. [Online] 07 February 2009,