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Newsweek Looks at First Grade

Newsweek addresses something worth thinking about: "The New First Grade: Too Much Too Soon?" Peg Tyre's article concerns the pressures put on young elementary school students. I've certainly noticed the trend. Tyre writes,

In the last decade, the earliest years of schooling have become less like a trip to "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" and more like SAT prep. Thirty years ago first grade was for learning how to read. Now, reading lessons start in kindergarten and kids who don't crack the code by the middle of the first grade get extra help. Instead of story time, finger painting, tracing letters and snack, first graders are spending hours doing math work sheets and sounding out words in reading groups.

The ideas trickle down, affecting  nursery schools, too. I've heard of parents getting nervous about kindergarten and enrolling their four-year-olds in more "academic" programs instead of play-based preschools. Some children thrive in such environments, of course, but are we as parents helping drive the trend that Tyre writes of? I don't think we can chalk all of it up to testing.

That said, when the kids do go to college, they'd better not order a term paper over the Internet. Charles McGrath, at The New York Times, grades a few.


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I really don't understand it how people don't "get" what real learning is. Facts and numbers don't comprise learning anymore than brush sizes and paint supplies comprise art.

Not only that, but American society and culture is plainly shifting from an industrial, information-oriented age to an entrepeneural age valuing the same "right brain" creative/inventive skills and tendencies that the current education system is suppressing when it forsakes Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood for SAT prep. Dan Pink's "A Whole New Mind" addresses this.

But then, I taught in a Reggio inspired preschool for two years, so this is the sort of stuff that gets me inflamed. If I had it my way, every school in America – regardless of the age of its pupils – would recognize the constructivist nature of learning and use what we'd consider more of a "play based" curriculum.

Thanks for linking to this article. We had a frustrating first grade year. There's no room anymore for children to find their own pace. And the thing is, I'm not sure what we are rushing them towards.

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