Robert Louis Stevenson knew that those who preach the virtues of play as work are talking about an illusion. Not so says Clara Hemphill, who blasts Achievement First East New York Charter School for trading dress-up corners and play kitchens for phonics lessons and grammar practice. Citing educators who argue that "play is work," Hemphill blames NCLB for depriving the children of First East, and kindergarteners across the U.S., of their childhoods and, apparently, of a chance at learning. Hardly. Though some children in Achievement First schools, best known for New Haven's Amistad Academy, no doubt yawn through lessons, they do learn. And given a choice of longer school days or their high-poverty, high-crime neighborhoods, most AF students will take school. Says one Amistad student, my mother "grew up on the streets, and I don't want to go there." Or as Stevenson would put it, "it is but a child of air/that lingers in the garden there."

"In Kindergarten Playtime, A New Meaning for ‘Play,'" by Clara Hemphill, New York Times, July 26, 2006

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