Schools should have a sign outside so parents could make an informed choice:
“Warning: School may be hazardous to your children’s health
With the start of the new academic year, we focus on school for a short while. School, so important to our community and central to our country’s future, has become increasingly toxic to our children. Recess has been eliminated in many districts, music and art have been discontinued and 25% of school time is now spent on getting ready or taking the state wide tests. Kindergarten is now the new first grade. We should all be concerned but parents are on the front line. Parents, its time to take a stand for our children and say loud and clear: “Enough is enough!”
In the summer of 2005, a conference held at Yale University was attended by 100 early childhood professionals along with leaders in social policy. Visit this site for their complete report: Play=Learning
Here is part of their report with emphasis added:
“Children in the direct instruction programs had higher rates of delinquency, were less willing to help other children, and more likely to experience emotional problems (p. 139). Hart, Yang, Charlesworth, and Burts (2003) confirm these findings in a longitudinal study that directly compared children who received direct instruction with those who received developmentally appropriate pedagogical practices. Results showed that through the third grade, children receiving direct instruction experienced more stress than children receiving developmentally appropriate curricula. Furthermore, stress seemed to play a causal role in Hart et al.’s model as it predicted the appearance of hyperactive and distractible behaviors as well as greater hostility and aggression. Importantly, these findings emerged regardless of gender, race, and socio-economic status. “
In other words, too much emphasis on academics does exactly the opposite of what we desire for our children. It should be no surprise that stress hinders children’s learning. In short, the present educational focus on higher test scores may be hazardous to our children’s overall health, their cognitive development and future emotional/social adjustment.
So what should we do if we want the best for our kids?
“When children are in environments where learning is occurring in a meaningful context, where they have choices, and where they are encouraged to follow their interests, learning takes place best (Hirsh-Pasek & Golinkoff, 2003).”
It would appear that overly directed learning, the type of drill and practice so prevalent now, is hazardous, possibly toxic. When children are denied the opportunity to make choices, to follow their interests, to have fun while at school and to socialize with their friends, school is harming when it should be helping.
The good news is that parents have it within their power to change this today. Parents can immediately restore choice to their children’s educational life.
Tell your children (or grandchildren) that they always have a choice but you would prefer that they not take tests (unless they want to), or do drill and practice, or any preparation for taking a test, or homework (unless they want to). Grades are used to reward kids for compliance. Tell your kids that grades are not as important as what they want to learn.
Send a note to school that explains your position, something like this will do:
My son/daughter will not be taking any tests, preparing to take any test, take any quiz, do worksheets or homework unless my son/daughter is interested in doing so. Please provide alternative activities for my son/daughter during those times when testing etc are the main activity of the class. Alternatives would include reading, writing, drawing, or any other activity that can be engaged in without disrupting the other students. Please contact me if you have any questions. ”
When every student has a choice of what to participant in, then maybe some fun and even joy can return to school. Learning, as important as it is, should not be drudgery. Put choice back into your child’s life. They will be thankful that you did!