Always Crazy, Always Fun, Always Love

Ray Romano once compared life with twins to living in a frat house. As he put it, "no one sleeps, there is a lot of noise and a lot of throwing up." I find this very true with 4 young children, including twins. However, though things are always crazy, we always try to have fun and, most certainly, always love each other.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Are American Children Getting "Stupider"?

This is, admittedly, simply the rantings of someone "uneducated" (no pun intended....) on the topic. I don't necessarily know all the arguments behind this, but I felt compelled to speak my mind. (and everyone knows that while I am often relatively quiet, if I do get very opinionated on out!)

The reason for this post is that it seems more and more I am hearing all of these news reports and seeing newspaper/internet articles about how America's children are getting dumber with each generation. As I hear about this more frequently in recent days, it really gets on my nerves because I just don't understand- this in not what I see personally.

What I see is this-

- Kindergarten used to be when children first learned about going to school. It was here that they would spend a couple hours a day learning their shapes, letters and numbers. It was mostly about play and easing them into the world of education. Now, children are considered to be behind if they do not know all these things before entering school. I feel pressured to make sure my 3 year olds know their letters and their sounds before they turn 4. I feel that I have become a minority in that I do not plan to send my two 3 year olds to preschool. (Seriously- if people want to send their children to preschool, great-it is not a bad thing at all- I personally do not have the $250/ month to send two kids for a few hours a week when I can teach them the same things myself- which I am doing!)

Now, Kindergarten is often full day (as it is in our district). There are expectations for what they know before coming to school-preschool has become the rule rather than the exception. There is homework and assessments. I know several who have felt the need to make sure their children could read BEFORE kindergarten! Certainly our children can't be dumber with that kind of pressure put on parents!

- Kids are pushed to do more sooner I believe. I realize this is probably somewhat necessary as we become more technologically advanced. I suppose maybe somethings need to be learned sooner to make room to learn more advanced technologies. But, does this come at a price? Some children may not be able to learn at such a pace and will fall behind- not because they aren't being educated or because they are dumb- they are being pushed into a new subject before they mastered the first. My 4th grader does algebra almost daily- and I think it was first introduced to him in 1st or 2nd grade!!! Algebra is tough for a highschooler!

- College enrollments increase every year. Colleges admission processes are becoming more difficult due to high numbers of applicants. How can colleges have increasing enrollment if children are dumber?

I realize there are problems with our education system- I know it isn't perfect. You do have people who slip through the cracks and get promoted to the next grade or even graduate while being unable to read. Things like this are a problem for sure. But that doesn't mean children as a whole are dumber. It is offensive to parents and teachers who work hard to educate those in their charge to be told we aren't doing well. There was an incident when Kenny's teacher (4th grade) realized that the children were not easily able to differentiate between which state/country/city they lived. (for example, when asked what state they lived in, some said the United States...) So, what did she do? Taught a unit on it. She saw what was missing and educated them. She is an excellent teacher. I am sure she would be offended at the implication she isn't doing enough.

So, why do people make this claim that children are getting dumber? I figure it could be a few reasons:

1) It does seem that test scores fall behind sometimes and in some districts. But, as I said, maybe we are pushing kids too fast to learn tough concepts. So, when they are tested, they fail, but there is no time to reteach it so teachers are forced to move on. Test scores may be lower than they were 10 or 20 or more years ago, but they are also learning so much more that they are tested on. There is definitely a longer list of required knowledge then there was 10 or 20 years ago! Maybe they aren't dumber- maybe they are being pushed too hard too fast?

2) Maybe it is political to an extent? Politicians love to talk about failing education and how they will "fix" it. It is easy to throw the blame around to promote your own agenda.

3) Sometimes people will blame the "system" even though they did nothing to help their own children. Some believe it is solely the schools job to educate children. If children are not properly educated, you certainly can't blame just the education system or even the government. Parents have a responsibility to be sure their children are educated. Parents who watch over their childrens' education and teach them of the importance of it will have successful children. That is why even a child in an inner city school can go on to be a doctor while someone who goes to a suburban or private school can end up going no where. It isn't just the school. It is the influence of those who raise them.

So- again, I am not saying "the system" is perfect. There are unfortunately kids that get lost on the way and are not always found. No child should ever get lost- so yes, there are things that need fixing. But certainly, we are doing the rising generation a disservice by calling them stupid before they even have a chance to get going! I walk through my children's elementary school (which is, by the way, an urban school....) and do not see any dumb children there!


Lauri said...

Wow! I love your thoughts. Unfortunately, teachers now have to teach for the exam--the standardized testing that is required yearly so districts can keep getting funded. That is making good teachers loose their creativity and individuality. Additionally, parents are becoming less and less involved in their child's education which puts more and more pressure on schools. Add to all of that unbelieveable amounts of discipline that needs to happen and we have some serious trouble in the system. And with all of that, there is little value placed on education in our society. It is frightening to think what our society will become if there isn't a greater emphasis and more money put towards education.

Moms Are Contagious said...

Your thoughts are great! Awhile ago I read a blog about someone trying to get their two year old to read...I now have an 18 month old who I am teaching things to but definitely not reading! I guess my attitude is to teach Lizzie WITHOUT friend put it in perspective when asked about her child learning by saying he has his whole life to is SUPER important but so is letting your child be a child!

Amandean said...

I do think that is interesting how preschool has become an expectation. We were doing preschool in Columbus for $80/month. When we got here, it was upwards of $150/month for most places. So we're doing a bit of a co-op just once a week. It's actually my turn this week. And I was so surprised that kindergarten here will be a full day, 5 days a week! So much for easing him into school! I'm really going to miss the boy next year. Heck. Ease ME into school, if not him! And kids really are learning subjects before we did.

Jake said...

Autumn here.

I always love your "rants". I love a well founded opinion. ;) I think you're right that it can be a political platform.

I feel some pressure but mostly because I feel that the ability is there and I'd like for that to be nourished, not ignored just because. (And I mean every kid, I'm not saying Ells is gifted...)

I too don't think its necessary to send a kid to preschool though I can see value of it. (And I certainly wouldn't pay that for it!)

I do think however that kids are capable of SO much more than we often give them credit. For that reason, I see great value in teaching early early early not out of pressure to keep up with others but to fulfill a kid's individual potential.

Whether Bylle was referring to me or not, you know I experimented with the Glenn Doman reading method at age 2 and saw great success with such little effort. Again, the ability is there, so why not nourish it.

Since studying more about brain development in children, I do cringe when I think of "let kids be kids" theory. The same could be said of adults "let adults be adults"--that is, let us be self indulging lazy bums who don't work--because that's easier...but yet we're capable of so much more. 8 hours a day of studying for a toddler? NO. Easy ways to let a kid learn what they can do SO effortlessly at this age? YES!