Friday, July 25, 2014

Memo to Three-Year-Old Slackers

To: American Three-Year-Olds
From: America's Education Reform Thought Leaders'
Re: Get to work, you lazy slackers

It has come to our attention that your older brothers and sisters have been showing up to Kindergarten completely unprepared for the requirements of a rigorous education. It is time to nip this indolent behavior in the bud. You probably don't even know what 'indolent" means, do you? Dammit-- this is exactly why Estonia and Singapore are challenging the US for world domination!

It's time for you to understand-- the party is over. We waited patiently for you to get potty trained and weaned off breast feeding on your own schedule, and that was probably a mistake because it led you to believe that you could just do things when you're good and ready. Well, no more. We're on to you. We saw you spend all that time crawling instead of walking because walking was just tooo haaard. Wah, wah, wah. We're done coddling you. The state has a schedule for you, and you are damn well going to get with it. You got to float around all free and easy in your Mommy's non-rigorous womb, and that's enough time off for anyone.

No, I don't want to see the pretty picture that you drew, unless you can explain what sources and data contributed to your compositional choices. You really need to be synthesizing two or more disparate sources for your pictures. And stick to the prompt-- I said draw a picture of an important Sumerian ceremony, not a bunny and a sun. And stop getting up every ten seconds to go look at something. You need to start learning how to focus properly. Sit in that chair and draw for the next ninety minutes without getting up.

Sitting will be good preparation for testing. Of course we're going to test you. How else will we know whether or not you are on track for college? Yes, I know your Mommy says she loves you and you can do anything, but what the hell does she know. Only a good solid expensive standardized test can tell us whether or not you are college material. Stop whining and get your pudgy little hand wrapped around that mouse. C'mon-- show some grit.

I know this is a lot to take in, and we really would have started last year when you were two, but frankly, all you would say was "no" over and over again. It's possible that terrible twos are the educational barrier that we can't break past. But now you're three, and all we have to break you of is this tendency to be distracted by childlike wonder and joy, and this ridiculous desire to play all the time. We must get you ready for Kindergarten, or you will never get into a good college and then we won't have the workers we need to compete globally and our leaders will lose supreme command of the universe and our corporations will have access to fewer markets. You don't want that, do you? You don't know what "compete globally" means? See, this is what we're talking about. Go sit down and write a six-sentence paragraph utilizing multiple sources about economic developments in post-agrarian societies, using non-fiction sources from government websites.

Look, kid. Everybody wants you to be Kindergarten-ready, so you've got to practice sitting inert, taking senseless tests, and being properly compliant. You need experience in going days at a time without playing, and I'm a little concerned that your napping is getting out of hand. And don't think your teacher is going to let you off the hook-- we know how soft and wimpy she is, and we've taken care of her.

Does everyone want this for all three year olds? Well, no, actually. Chad and Buffy, you can disregard this memo. Shaniqua and Bubba Jean-- you'd better listen up.


  1. Is there a specific word for when you laugh, but sadly and in disbelief that this is our new reality? This is another one of your posts for which I need that word.

  2. Dude, you haven't been Asia.

  3. Dude, we don't want to be Asia.

  4. I wasn't supporting it but taking a young kid to classes where the emphasis is fun and learning can be good for them. But isn't have a child ready for kindergarten the idea behind the headstart program?

    1. Yes - now that Kindergarten is the new First Grade, pre-K and Head Start are the new Kindergarten.

      We still need Kindergarten to be what it was originally conceptualized to be: a Child's Garden, where children came to a play-based setting to become accustomed to being in school, not in an academic sense but as a means of becoming familiar with the setting and with the procedures, to getting used to socializing with other children and working with materials one would more likely find in school than at home (barring a really large and well-appointed playroom, anyway).

      And for that matter, a play-based Head Start before a play-based Kindergarten would likely reap even bigger benefits, with children who most need a non-academic social experience (and would be less likely to get it in a low-income household) having an EXTRA year to work on those skills, to have enough structure and routine to really flourish when the more formal learning began in FIRST grade.

      It's not a matter of fun (in the form of play) being "good for them." It's a matter of fun and play being the kind of learning that children that age are hard-wired to do in the first place. By emphasizing academic instead, we co-opt that window of learning, and then in elementary school we wring our hands in despair that our children aren't creative, that they are weak in social skills, that they have no "grit," when the period of time those skills are best learned and internalized - 0-8YO, or Early Childhood - was spent instead on formal learning and direct instruction, in absolute opposition to HOW children really learn and WHEN they best learn which skills and attributes.

      Sorry for the length...typing thru a migraine.

  5. What crunchymama said. Seriously.

  6. Go, crunchymama! You tell 'em! And ditto.