Sunday, April 27, 2014

No fun left behind

Today in "I'm not an educator, but I can sniff out terrible ones" news:


The idea that a school would cancel its annual year-end kindergarten show to "[prepare] children for college and career with valuable lifelong skills and know that we can best do that by having them become strong readers, writers, coworkers and problem solvers" is already wrong, stupid and tragic on every level. But the letter's next sentence truly brings the thought process into focus:

Please do not fault us for making professional decisions that we know will never be able to please everyone. But know that we are making these decisions with the interests of all children in mind.

Yes, parents, don't be upset that the people charged with educating your kids are being utter (and tellingly defensive) buffoons. It's only your children. They have their whole lives to learn cooperation and socialization, presumably outside of class — these spreadsheets aren't going to spruce up themselves!

Trust us, your 6-year-olds may bemoan the cancellation of the school show now, but when they get that extra point on the SAT in 11 years, they'll realize that sucking every ounce of soul out of their education was worth it.

This is yet more proof why treating kids like tiny adults, and why running non-businesses like businesses, never works. Despite every dumb federal effort to try, you can't quantify every aspect of education into a test score. Learning information and taking tests is (or at least should be) a fraction of what education is about. Different ages have different developmental needs, and it's important to meet those needs at the appropriate time, in ways that engage kids. That gets them interested in learning, and teaches them life skills that come in handy later. You know what else it does? Makes them better at school! All 12 years of standardized tests accomplishes is making a school look good in a ledger. Meanwhile, the kids have all sense of fun and soul stripped from them as qualities to be treated with scorn.

My kindergarten class did a show for graduation in 1986. I still remember the song. Just like I remember my first-grade play. And my third-grade class play, "February On Trial," where I played a Boy Scout. And being a leaping lord in a French version of "The 12 Days of Christmas" in eighth grade. And watching my brother and sister nail it on stage during the high school musicals they were in. And all the other activities and sports, and even recess — all of the things referred to as extracurricular, as if they have no value instead of most of the value.

You know what I don't remember? Most of my test scores.

Collegewise, this set me back 12 years.
Nevertheless, I seemed to have turned out fine. I graduated high school on time and eventually earned a master's degree. I could have taught, even, but No Child Left Behind made just getting on board an expensive, red-tape-choked ordeal. And its rules meant I wouldn't be able to be the kind of teacher I wanted to be, like the ones who'd inspired me.

Going back to the buzzkills in New York: The affected students will indeed learn one lesson — that trusted adults don't always know what's best. Though it seems to me they'd want to put off that lesson, considering their stifling educational model.

Where are you when we need you, Uncle Buck?

1 comment:

Joe Nunnally said...

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