March 01, 2006
Readers learn from a Los Angeles Times op-ed that all is not well with the kindergarten set. Meet Ricky, whose Mommy is worried because her son is being forced to write his name, not only in capital letters, but with a mixture of the upper and lower cases. It gets worse. Ricky’s mom is alarmed that kindergarten is becoming “a 30-hour-a-week job. There’s nightly homework; finger painting is a rare treat; and as for naps, there just isn’t time.” And what’s to blame for this fascistic regime of rationed coloring contests? Standardized testing, of course. “Higher test scores mean more cash,” Mommy tells us, though it’s not quite clear whose pockets she has in mind. So kindergarten teachers—Sesame Street Gordon Gekkos, perhaps, twisted with merit pay greed—work their classes to the bone. (P.S.: Merit pay in LA? That’s news to us.) “If school is drudgery from the start, it’s no wonder that the Los Angeles Unified School District has a high dropout rate.” Mommy, we know you mean well, but teenagers in South Central aren’t leaving school because of extended handwriting practice as 5-year-olds. They’re more apt to drop out because they never learned to write (or read). If you want little Ricky to become a bon vivant, you might take him to France—where they start teaching real academic skills at age three (Quelle horreur!) and still manage to imbue learning with joy.
“My kid, a burnout at 5,” by L.J. Williamson, Los Angeles Times, February 27, 2006