Back to School: The Old Desk and Chain

It’s the time of year when everyone gets in a tissy over students returning, or starting school. News outlets love them some back to school coverage and I want them to stop. All this coverage of students being under-prepared for the challenges ahead makes me worry about the state of the country. Worried only because I see the makings of a self-fulfilling prophecy.
This article from MSNBC discusses pre-kindergarten tutoring. Maybe I was an advanced kid, but it seems I already knew how to nap, cry and throw up at that age. But apparently it’s academic tutoring on mostly reading and writing. Child behavior specialist know that kids have developmental stages where certain understanding is impossible, and every kid develops at a different pace. Luckily for me my parents were fairly ignorant of this and the importance of 5-year old private tutors. They actually read to me because I liked it, and it was a good way to pass the time. My brother even taught me multiplication simply because he was excited about it, and that excitement was infectious. Because math, reading and writing was an enjoyable experience it likely resulted in my academic success. I worry that the pressure kids face to perform ultimately ruins their desire and enjoyment for learning. And I’m surprised that parents want to stress themselves out over 2nd grade reading level at 5 years old. What are they going to assimilate in those two years that’s going to make so much of a difference? Is a Noble Laureate going to credit his success to researching what happens if you give a mouse a cookie? It is illustrated after all, no need to read.

It seems like it isn’t helping much as these kids get older. Recently I heard a radio program (NPR of course) about college freshman being under-prepared. Because of the pressure for decreased homework assignments in high school in order to focus on standardized test preparation, many freshman don’t know how to manage time. Furthermore parents (who want their kids to get into the best schools via highest GPA) increasingly act as enablers of responsibility shurking. Principles are pressured by parents to discipline teachers who grade too harshly. In my college classes the students would complain about a ‘difficult’ assignment or whine about the due date until the teacher caved. These parents think they are creating successful students, but that’s just on their high school transcript. In reality parents who constantly usurp the education system to benefit their son or daughter’s GPA are creating the asshole at work . . . um I mean adults who feel entitled to things they haven’t earned. More over this radio program talked about how more than 40% of new college students took remedial courses in reading and writing last year. That’s surprising considering most of these kids were in pre-k and kindergarten memorizing colors, numbers and U.S. Presidents.
What’s the point of all this pre-k prep if all they’re expected to is pass a basic skills test?
All that said, I’m finishing up my two week orientation for business school. I’ve be repeatedly reminded that this is going to be a challenge and a heavy workload, but I was told as much in undergrad, and it wasn’t true. The challenges I’ve face so far in this life haven’t involved a heavy work load, having a breadth of knowledge, but adjusting my expectations, ways of thinking and ways dealing with problems. And it is these skills, and a willingness to adapt effectively that will help them from pre-k to post-graduate studies.

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~ by The Great and Powerful RB on August 19, 2009.

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