Friday, February 23, 2007

Cognitive Dissonance on Pre-K

The Arkansas News Bureau has an article which says that the bill to raise the minimum age for kindergarten by a couple of months has advanced on a 33-0 vote in the Senate. Several teachers testified that children under age 5 are often too immature for kindergarten and it seems their testimony was convincing.

Ok, perhaps some of them can explain to us why they are in such a rush to expand Pre-K "education". If the younger five year olds are too immature for kindergarten, then why are we pushing 4 year olds and even 3 year olds into a similar classroom/government institutional setting? Is it just day care by another name?

Children that age are designed to learn mostly by unstructered play. When their brain is ready to study letters for ten minutes they will want to study letters. When their brain's have had as much of that as they can process for a while they wander off and learn something else. Families are a great place to learn that way. Institutions, which lack flexibility and have more rigid schedules and "objectives", are not.

If Senators understand that younger five year olds are too young for this, then why are most of them supporting this for even younger children?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why, indeed, are legislators (prompted by educrats) so insistent on Pre K programs? Please consider the following (It's long, but worthwhile):

"University studies are often quoted to support the perceived academic benefits of preschool. What is not often mentioned is that, while these studies demonstrate preschool in a favourable light when compared with an impoverished home environment, preschool does not compare favourably with the average home environment.

Even Professor Edward Zigler, credited as “the father of Headstart” a widespread American preschool program admits “there is a large body of evidence that there is little to be gained by exposing middle class children to early education … (and) evidence that indicates early schooling is inappropriate for many four-year-olds, and that it may be harmful to their development”.

If preschool were truly beneficial in terms of giving children a head start, those places with some form of compulsory preschool should do demonstrably better academically. The evidence does not bear this out.

For example, the two states of America which have compulsory preschool, Georgia and Oklahoma, have the lowest results for fourth grade reading tests in the country.

In 2000, the Program for International Study Assessment (PISA) compared the academic scores of children from 32 industrialised nations in reading literacy, maths and science. The results showed that in countries where schooling starts at a young age they do not consistently outperform those who start later.

Finland, which has a compulsory schooling age of seven, held the top ranking in all test subjects of the Third International Mathematics and Science (TIMS) results in 1999.
Singapore, which also scored highly in the PISA and TIMS assessments, has no publicly funded early education programs.

By contrast, Sweden, which has one of the most comprehensive early child-care programs in Europe, was one of the lowest scoring nations.

Hungary and Czechoslovakia, cut their day-care programs significantly in the 1990s after studies determined that institutional care damages preschool-aged children.

Perhaps most tellingly of all, the longitudinal studies often quoted to argue an academic advantage provided by preschool for lower socio-economic groups, actually also show that this “advantage” disappears by grade three.

But what about the much-touted social benefits of preschool programs? Here again, there is research to refute this. A 2005 Stanford University study reported: “We find that attendance in preschool centers, even for short periods of time each week, hinder the rate at which young children develop social skills and display the motivation to engage in classroom tasks, as reported by their [prep] teachers.”

In 1986, Tizzard and Hughes compared the language environments at home and in preschools in the UK. Their method involved tape-recording the conversations of four-year-old girls at preschool in the morning and again at home with their mothers in the afternoon. They reported:
We became increasingly aware of how rich this [home] environment was for all the children (working-class and middle-class). The conversations between the children and their mothers ranged freely over a variety of topics. The idea that children’s interests were restricted to play and TV was clearly untenable.
At home the children discussed topics like work, the family, birth, growing up, and death; they talked with their mothers about things they had done together in the past, and their plans for the future; they puzzled over such diverse topics as the shape of roofs and chairs, the nature of Father Christmas, and whether the Queen wears curlers in bed.
Many of these conversations took place during recognizably educational contexts - such as during play or while reading books - but many did not. A large number of the more fruitful conversations simply cropped up as the children and their mothers went about their afternoon’s business at home - having lunch, planning shopping expeditions, feeding the baby and so on.
When we came to analyze the conversations between these same children and their [preschool] teachers, we could not avoid being disappointed. The children were certainly happy at school, for much of the time absorbed in play. However, their conversations with their teachers made a sharp contrast to those with their mothers.
The richness, depth and variety which characterized the home conversations were sadly missing. So too was the sense of intellectual struggle, and of the real attempts to communicate being made by both sides.
The questioning, puzzling child which we were so taken with at home was gone: in her place was a child who, when talking to staff, seemed subdued, and whose conversations with adults were mainly restricted to answering questions rather than asking them, or taking part in minimal exchanges about the whereabouts of other children and play materials.
Relationships are the most important part of life. For small children especially, the time spent in the secure home environment is invaluable. Contrary to popular opinion, forcing children to separate from their parents before they are ready to is not necessary."

Susan Wight

10:21 PM, February 23, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We only hear the sound of crikets chirping. Where are all the supporters of this program? Can't ONE legislator who will vote for Pre-K defend it intellectually?

7:03 PM, February 27, 2007  

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