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A concerned member of the human race

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Those Were the Days, My Friend

"OK, I just have to get a pillow.  Then, we can start takeoff," I overhear my eight-year old matter-of-factly tell her younger sister.  She had mentioned to me earlier that she was constructing an airplane in the living room when questioned about the apparent mess of chairs, blankets and tents, center stage.  I took it in stride.  I like airplanes.  It seemed like the most natural thing ever.  

As I processed her statement, I had two reactions though.  First:  Oh, how creative!  What a wonderful imagination.  Second:  Why does she need a pillow?  Is she intending that someone will crash or just taking precautions in case a passenger decides to nap?

Next, the oldest sister joined the game.  And, I, of course, am listening with my ear bent in that direction.  She said all the passengers were going to be famous experts.  She was going to be a renowned scientist.  I begin to hear them plan where they are going.  I soon realize how much learning can be incorporated into this simple game, possibly everything from pitch and yaw to Patagonia.  

The game was interrupted by the arrival of the much-awaited letters containing the names of the girls' new teachers.  I imagine the girls will do fine in school and, being familiar with some of their teachers already, I know they are in good hands.  Yet, I also know how this ed. deformity creeps into harm children even at the earliest ages.

I know teachers feel the necessity to test prep.  So much depends upon it.  I have seen conditions of time pressure applied to learning more than ever, doing much to unnerve some children.  I have heard a teacher of the earliest grades tell me how creative play and social interaction have suffered at the hands of a rigorous schedule aimed to meet the demands of high-stakes state tests.  

We did well enough in school, didn't we?  We're doing OK in life, aren't we?  Yet, we never had to sacrifice our childhood to do so.  I saw a Pre-K teacher on the playground last June.  She stopped to talk to me.  I didn't bring up the topic.  She did.  The conversation naturally led to the detrimental changes she has seen in the education of young children.  Somehow, most conversations with teachers naturally turn in that direction today.  

So, I think about how the summer can rejuvenate children and how the Common Core curriculum and the tests that drive it will try to sap so much of that joy from them.  I think about how children tend towards natural creativity, but little on a test recognizes that highest level of learning.  A Common-Core aligned education seems to be at war with all the natural creativity and joy of childhood.

So, here comes another year of Common Core.  What will be the costs for teacher and student alike?  And, realizing these costs, how many more parents will chose the path of opting out?  If only we could opt out our children from the mindset of test prep as well!  Then, these truly would be the days for our children as "those were the days, my friend," for us...

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