Pardon me, but I’m still shaking from a conversation I just had on the playground with another mommy from my son’s music class. She’s currently homeschooling her daughter so in between pushes on the swing we talk the trade of moms who shoulder the massive undertaking of their child’s education, often to their family’s chagrin.
Her husband was against the idea of homeschooling their daughter, who is now six, so she did her research. Among other things, she learned that today’s kindergartners don’t learn how to tell time on an analog clock or how to calculate change. They don’t need to learn these things, educators reason, because all clocks are digital and computers do the math. Computers also allow students to “publish” their own work in accordance with Common Core, so most educators don’t bother emphasizing good writing skills, either. Kindergartners learn the rudiments of printing before being pushed onto keyboards to learn typing skills. You know, so they can interact with computers that do all the thinking.
When I arrived home I went onto my local school district’s website. While specific lesson plans aren’t published, curriculum guides are. These include an emphasis on publishing a student’s work, even if it’s just one to two sentences accompanied by an illustration. Keep in mind, however, that Common Core requires digital publication, which is why students will “explore a variety of digital tools to produce and publish writing.” Want your kindergartner to be a blogger? Better set those comment filters now.
Even more shockingly, kindergartners are expected to learn via a series of “centers” involving “independent reading.” How would a child unable to read go about reading independently, you ask? Via audio-enhanced web software. That’s a fancy way of saying your child is listening to an audio-book. What is the teacher doing? Facilitating a group discussion on reading in which children “celebrate” what they learned during their independent study time. But, don’t worry, your child will be given a list of things to do so she doesn’t waste time waiting for her turn with the teacher.
At the end of the day, the greatest skill kindergartners are expected to master is the ability to push a button. How do I know this? Because that is the one and only skill they will repeat multiple times during the day. Need to know the time? Push a button. Do a math calculation? Push a button. Read? Push a button. Write? Push a button. These children aren’t being taught to think, let alone think critically. They’re being told to keep themselves busy while waiting for human interaction by pushing buttons.
A parent who hands her child a phone to play with while she waits in line at Target is now equipped to be a public school kindergarten teacher.
Reading is one of the most challenging things we learn how to do. The encoding of language into letters and words, the capturing of thoughts into sentences and paragraphs, is so challenging that the majority of popular published work targeted to adults today is written at a fifth-ninth grade reading level. Cursive writing, already axed by many Common Core-infused curricula, teaches children a variety of critical skills beyond the ability to communicate the written word in a speedy, personal fashion. Why are we muddying the task of teaching these core elements of literacy with computer operations and age-inappropriate levels of busy work?
Furthermore, why are we stripping our children of their independence by teaching them to allow a computer to do their thinking and communicating for them? And why is a teacher expected to lead a small group discussion while monitoring a child’s learning at an independent work station? Perhaps, more importantly, why are kindergarten classrooms looking more like contemporary office spaces for bureaucratic drones than exciting places for children to learn and grow?