Kindergarteners should play more and spend less time on reading and math, argues Peggy Orenstein in the New York Times. She cites Alliance for Childhood‘s new report, Crisis in the Kindergarten, which argues that academics are crowding out play.
A survey of 254 teachers in New York and Los Angeles the group commissioned found that kindergartners spent two to three hours a day being instructed and tested in reading and math. They spent less than 30 minutes playing. “Play at age 5 is of great importance not just to intellectual but emotional, psychological social and spiritual development,” says Edward Miller, the report’s co-author. Play — especially the let’s-pretend, dramatic sort — is how kids develop higher-level thinking, hone their language and social skills, cultivate empathy. It also reduces stress, and that’s a word that should not have to be used in the same sentence as “kindergartner” in the first place.
Five is the new seven, she writes, pointing to her upper-middle-class friends’ designer children.
But the children of poorly educated, low-income mothers start school without the vocabulary, conversational skills and knowledge of middle-class kids. If they’re not taught in school, they won’t be taught at home. They can play at home.
Teaching kindergarteners has “produced significant gains in reading and math achievement,” writes Jay Mathews in response to a mother who complains her children’s kindergarten curriculum is too demanding.
The achievement gap between white and minority students has narrowed as a result. I have seen no research confirming your impression of an increase in bad side effects, but they might be there. Anybody have any ideas for preserving those gains with less pain?
One reason that kindergartens today look like first grades of the past is that so many kids go to preschool, which is a lot like kindergarten used to be. “Duck, Duck, Goose” gets old after awhile.