Monday, March 5, 2012

Delay Kindergarten at Your Child's Peril? Really?

The latest in a series of "go to school or else" type propaganda comes from professors of molecular biology and neuroscience; they argue that delaying, or "redshirting" a child's entrance into kindergarten is detrimental and results in all kinds of catastrophes, from a five-points-lower IQ to less motivation in high school. The authors also say that school is necessary for socializing a child (see full article here).

I sent my child to kindergarten, right on time, where she learned her colors and numbers for the third time, along with her letters for the second time (she learned to read at home, well before they actually started reading at school). She also learned that "brown children play with brown children, and white children play with white children" (couldn't hardly believe when that came home), you shouldn't try too hard, and when you are "done," you should read in a corner. These skills and socializations were learned in one of the better public schools in the district.

I couldn't disagree more with the authors; in fact, I argue against sending your kids to this current iteration of public school at any age. Once again, I will say that I am for the idea of public school, and completely against how it is right now (including all of the "reforms" that are merely re-tooling, not reforming). The biggest proof against the argument of entering kindergarten on time is the following paragraph:

The benefits of being younger are even greater for those who skip a grade, an option available to many high-achieving children. Compared with nonskippers of similar talent and motivation, these youngsters pursue advanced degrees and enter professional school more often. Acceleration is a powerful intervention, with effects on achievement that are twice as large as programs for the gifted. Grade-skippers even report more positive social and emotional feelings.

Age is a number; grade skippers are happier and more motivated because they are working at their intellectual level instead of being held back and reading in the corner. These are two different articles completely. Grade acceleration for the gifted has almost nothing to do with entering kindergarten on time; most gifted students are working well ahead of their peers in at least one subject by the time they enter school, so entering kindergarten "on time" is a moot point.

Additionally, these younger grade skippers are working with their intellectual, not biological peers; they may be in classes with students who are two or more years older than them. This blasts a hole in the author's arguments as well; if school is supposed to be a normalizing, socializing mechanism, why do we insist on placing 30 kids of the same biological age in the room together? At what point in your adult life has that ever been the case? Grade skippers and late entries to school have a more natural social experience in that there is some variety of biological age (and intellect, and social/emotional maturity) where they are.

Of course there are benefits for some groups of kids to enroll in school on time (lower-SES families, for example, where there may be less literacy activities and experiences in the home), but the idea that everyone is placing their children in peril by not enrolling them in kindergarten at five is ludicrous. This article is nothing more than edu-cractic propaganda, aimed at parents who are unsure of their choices. Every kid is different; education philosophies like this one (enter by five, leave at 18) treat people like products, mass producing "Educated Person" in the most generic, efficient way possible.

The truth is that most parents DO put their kids in public school at five, and look at where we are as a country. Instead of focusing on age, how about we improve what is offered at every level and meet kids where they are? Instead of worrying about the dinosaur of same-age socialization, how about we work in grade bands and group kids on interest and ability, not biology? And instead of blindly following the edicts of the edu-stablishment like sheeple, why not look at our kids and figure out what makes sense for them?

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