Direct instruction denies low-income children a carefree childhood and harms their emotional development, argues Steve Nelson, headmaster of an elite private school in Manhattan, in the Huffington Post.
Low-income children in “direct instruction” pre-schools do less well in life than those in traditional nursery schools, according to The High/Scope Perry Preschool Study Through Age 40, he writes. (The study followed 68 children, only one third of whom were in a direct-instruction preschool.)
Early childhood education must be “play-based and focused on social development,” writes Calhoun. “Children should explore at their own pace, negotiate relationships with other children and with adults, daydream, be silly, try things out, and try things on.”
Education reformers have created no-excuses schools that turn children into little adults forced to meet ever-higher expectations, Calhoun writes.
Are there “no-excuses” preschools, joyless academic factories that parents nonetheless choose for their children?
Nelson, the half-million-dollar mouthpiece of a $45,000-per-year private school, has descended “from Olympus to admonish teachers of impoverished students against actually trying to teach them anything,” writes Fordham’s Robert Pondiscio.
“Play-based,” content-free learning might be fine for the children of hedge fund managers, who will have lots of opportunities to screw up before easing into careers as progressive school principals. But it’s not cutting it for kids from low-income families, who often arrive at school with huge skills deficits and consequently have to, you know, learn something.
Calhoun should “stick to finger painting in the Imagination Station, and quit lecturing those who are actually trying to help the poor,” concludes Pondiscio.
A few months ago, I visited pre-k and elementary classes at a local public school that’s focused on helping children from immigrant families catch up academically by third grade. Classes were loaded with academic content. Teachers mixed directed instruction, discussion, writing, singing, dance, exploration, etc.
I was amazed at how much science these kids were learning as they developed English proficiency. They seemed to be having a lot of fun. And they were learning the normal set of social skills.