First Graders, Unite!

When Hollywood makes a movie, functionaries watch out for the well-being of animals. Compared to kindergartners, apes live a life of luxury. According to the rules, if an ape works for than three days in a row, then a play area must be provided for the ape’s relaxation. As our leaders scream about “skills for the global economy,” they talk a lot more about the necessity of  standardized testing in the midst of a Pandemic rather than need for play areas.

Maybe the schoolchildren of America should unioninize: Children unite. You have nothing to lose but your workbooks and homework.

We acknowledge that adults need periodic breaks during their workday. We even acknowledge that apes in Hollywood need time and space to play. Requiring children to stay “on task” for a full day isn’t jjust cruel and unjust; it is also nuts.

Treating young children like robots–or Wall Street brokers-in-training–cannot come to a good end. When the message is hammered in to children from the moment they enter kindergarten, “You are never good enought, the results are tragic.

A mother in California showed up at a school board meeting to protest that her four-and-a-half-year-old had failed the prekindergarten screening. The child was labeled “immature,” with her thumb-sucking habit cited as evidence. “Of course she’s immature,” said Mom. “What is a four-and-a-half-year-old supposed to be?”

Good question.  A Standardista push to make kindergarten and even prekindergarten academic turns age-appropriate behavior into an illness or a deficiency, and we see five-year-olds put on drugs because they can’t sit still long enough to circle all the vowels on stacks of worksheets.

“Standards” reflect more political strategy than concern for children’s well-being. Officials justify the deformation by saying that getting workers ready for what jobs in the twenty-first century demand means tougher standards and testing for kindergartners.

Today’s kids enter kindergarten identified as deficient in skills that weren’t even introduced to kids that age a decade ago. It’s called preparing future workers to be competitive in the global economy. Keep the pressure on; keep people worried that they’re never good enough. And it starts in kindergarten.