It may be hard to believe, but in the
not so distant past, children did not attend school before kindergarten or
first grade. And when preschools started to become popular, they focused on
play and a range of appealing activities that often supplemented the kinds of
experiences they had at home (e.g., music, art, etc.) Over the past few
decades, this has steadily changed. Responding to the competitive pressures
around academic performance in later schooling, preschools have steadily
narrowed their offerings to what are deemed to be “academics” that are supposed
to have payoff in the later grades. This has meant repetitive trivial activities
such as letter naming, number counting, phonological awareness, etc.
Ironically, these fail to offer the payoff for later academic success that they
were supposed to bring. Our nation, relative to other developed countries,
continues on international assessments to perform at among the lowest levels.
It is truly a sad situation.
The pre-school period, along with adolescence, is a time for amazing cognitive growth in children. We could be teaching, and inspiring, young children to master foreign languages, to learn programming skills, to develop musical talents, physical talents and on and on. Some innovative preschools do provide such offerings. But for the vast majority, the time is taken up with materials and activities that are limited, boring and counterproductive for intellectual growth.
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