Princess Cornflakes

Too trashy to print on a cereal box

kindergarten cramming

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There are sure a lot of reasons to dislike Mr. Bush. There are the big ones that we hear more and more about every day – the meaningless war, the cynical treatment of impoverished disaster victims, the phony Texan accent. And there are other reasons we hear less frequently about – like the “No Child Left Behind” policy.

At first, I thought “No Child Left Behind” was mildly irritating to teachers who wouldn’t get paid if they didn’t take special training. But recently I have learned 1st hand how it hurts everyone – teachers, parents, and schoolkids alike.

Torben has just enrolled in Kindergarten here in America, after attending preschool in Denmark. Had he started kindergarten in Denmark, he would have been playing and learning a bit how to go to school. Maybe he would be learning his letters up through “ø”. He would mostly be having fun and making friends and playing outdoors and learning to like school in a gentle, kid-friendly way. Perhaps I would wish that he had a few more lessons, but the Danish idea is that “kids should be kids” as long as possible.

When we moved to Highland Park, NJ, we were hopeful after all we had heard about how “good” the Highland Park schools are. It turns out that “good” mainly means that kids learn all the time. Torben now has a day full of the exact opposite of what he would have had in Denmark. At age 5, he is whisked from reading to phonics to social studies to math to music and art – every day. His teacher makes time for whatever play she can, but she is mandated by the state and the federal government to teach the kids to pass tests, so that her school will get its funds and will not be “left behind”.

The result of all this? Kindergarten has become a sort of mini-Kaplan test prep. The students spend all their time prepping for the 2nd grade tests which the school needs to pass so that it can continue to pay teachers. Who’s the loser? Torben. He still hasn’t made any good friends because he doesn’t have time to talk to the other kids. Some days he returns saying that they didn’t play at all that day. He gets one 20-minute recess after lunch these days (how many recesses did you get in kindergarten? I personally remember almost an entire day of outdoor play, back then, even in the USA. And that is what I had expected for Torben). Oh, did someone say something about overweight American kids?

Torben’s childhood and social development is the only thing being left behind. He hates mondays. At this rate, he will enter college expecting to learn test-taking strategies instead of new ideas, and hating mondays. Since when did school become a work camp for kids?

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Written by nattie

November 7, 2005 at 12:21 am

Posted in editorial

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