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Re: [xmca] Kndergarten Cram: When is play?

Hi all,

Thanks for this link to a great article by Peggy Orenstein! I really liked
her honest question of herself about whether she would be willing to wait
until 7 for her daughter to learn to read juxtaposed with her daughter's
making a math worksheet since all the other kids have homework.

My name is Holli Tonyan and this is my first real posting to XMCA.

I'm afraid I have another depressing addition... A recent presentation at
the Society for Research on Child Development about how children spend their
time in prekindergarten programs (sorry - my program is at home so I don't
have the reference) suggests that in two different large-scale studies of
pre-k children spent most of their time waiting in line quietly. Many pre-ks
are in elementary schools and so the little ones have to walk quietly to
meals, wait in line quietly outside the toilets, wait quietly (in line) for
busses at the end of their shorter days, and at many other times of the day
as they are "fit" into schools that were not designed for them.

One ray of hope in the US is in the many family day care settings where many
still focus on play and some have resources to provide materials to really
extend and enrich children's play, but this is minimally-regulated and so
hard for parents to find. Note that in many other countries (I think of New
Zealand as a prime example), the early childhood educational system
encourages flexibility and really promotes family day care settings whereas
in the US these settings are often viewed as "ok" for infants and toddlers
or for the less affluent but not the first choice for many families.

Other reactions? I'm so excited to read a topic I actually have something to
say about.


On 5/4/09 9:30 AM, "David Preiss" <davidpreiss@uc.cl> wrote:

> No CLBH in Chile, but same miseries at the kindergarten. A
> kindergarten without play is like a university without library. But
> many many practitioners have forgotten so. At least in Chile, it is
> VERY difficult to find a good preschool that takes play seriously. The
> eradication of play from preschools seem to be part of a larger
> worldwide trend to standardization, over-achievement and loss of
> educational common sense. The ending extreme of this new educational
> training seems to be neuroenhancing at the college level:
> http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/04/27/090427fa_fact_talbot?currentPage
> =all
> No wonder why we get a Flynn effect everywhere, but I really wonder
> how good is that for those kids who are receiving a training that is
> based on skill drilling instead of cultural transmission.
> Time to re-read Montessory along Jerry Bruner?
> david
> On May 3, 2009, at 6:22 PM, Mike Cole wrote:
>> I really loved the bit about the kids getting older sooner as the
>> parents
>> get older later so pretty soon the kids will be older than their
>> parents!
>> What struck you about the story, vera?
>> mike
>> On Sun, May 3, 2009 at 12:52 PM, Vera Steiner <vygotsky@unm.edu>
>> wrote:
>>> Hi Mike,
>>> I was delighted to see this article in the Times, the new
>>> administration
>>> needs to hear alternatives to NCLB.
>>> Thanks for sending it out, perhaps we will discuss it a little,
>>> Vera
>>> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Mike Cole" <lchcmike@gmail.com>
>>> To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
>>> Sent: Sunda abouy, May 03, 2009 1:26
>>> Subject: [xmca] Kndergarten Cram: When is play?
>>> So many people on xmca are interested in play, I could not help
>>> forwarding
>>>> this article which kept me company over lunch.
>>>> Smile, cry,
>>>> Iis a #2 pencil
>>>> sticking in your eye?
>>>> mike
>>>> -------
>>>> Kindergarten Cram New York Times Magazine, The (NY) - Sunday, May
>>>> 3, 2009
>>>> About a year ago, I made the circuit of kindergartens in my town.
>>>> At each
>>>> stop, after the pitch by the principal and the obligatory exhibit
>>>> of art
>>>> projects only a mother (the student's own) could love, I asked the
>>>> same
>>>> question: "What is your policy on homework?"
>>>> And always, whether from the apple-cheeked teacher in the public
>>>> school or
>>>> the earnest administrator of the "child centered" private one, I
>>>> was met
>>>> with an eager nod. Oh, yes, each would explain: kindergartners are
>>>> assigned
>>>> homework every day.
>>>> Bzzzzzzt. Wrong answer.
>>>> When I was a child, in the increasingly olden days, kindergarten
>>>> was a
>>>> place
>>>> to play. We danced the hokeypokey, swooned in suspense over Duck,
>>>> Duck,
>>>> Gray
>>>> Duck (that's what Minnesotans stubbornly call Duck, Duck, Goose) and
>>>> napped
>>>> on our mats until the Wake-Up Fairy set us free.
>>>> No more. Instead of digging in sandboxes, today's kindergartners
>>>> prepare
>>>> for
>>>> a life of multiple-choice boxes by plowing through standardized
>>>> tests with
>>>> cuddly names like Dibels (pronounced "dibbles"), a series of
>>>> early-literacy
>>>> measures administered to millions of kids; or toiling over reading
>>>> curricula
>>>> like Open Court -- which features assessments every six weeks.
>>>> According to "Crisis in the Kindergarten," a report recently
>>>> released by
>>>> the
>>>> Alliance for Childhood, a nonprofit research and advocacy group,
>>>> all that
>>>> testing is wasted: it neither predicts nor improves young children's
>>>> educational outcomes. More disturbing, along with other academic
>>>> demands,
>>>> like assigning homework to 5-year-olds, it is crowding out the one
>>>> thing
>>>> that truly is vital to their future success: play.
>>>> A survey of 254 teachers in New York and Los Angeles the group
>>>> commissioned
>>>> found that kindergartners spent two to three hours a day being
>>>> instructed
>>>> and tested in reading and math. They spent less than 30 minutes
>>>> playing.
>>>> "Play at age 5 is of great importance not just to intellectual but
>>>> emotional, psychological social and spiritual development," says
>>>> Edward
>>>> Miller, the report's co-author. Play -- especially the let's-
>>>> pretend,
>>>> dramatic sort -- is how kids develop higher-level thinking, hone
>>>> their
>>>> language and social skills, cultivate empathy. It also reduces
>>>> stress, and
>>>> that's a word that should not have to be used in the same sentence
>>>> as
>>>> "kindergartner" in the first place.
>>>> I came late to motherhood, so I had plenty of time to ponder
>>>> friends'
>>>> mania
>>>> for souped-up childhood learning. How was it that the same couples
>>>> who
>>>> piously proclaimed that 31/2-year-old Junior was not
>>>> "developmentally
>>>> ready"
>>>> to use the potty were drilling him on flashcards? What was the
>>>> rush? Did
>>>> that better prepare kids to learn? How did 5 become the new 7,
>>>> anyway?
>>>> There's no single reason. The No Child Left Behind Act, with its
>>>> insistence
>>>> that what cannot be quantified cannot be improved, plays a role.
>>>> But so do
>>>> parents who want to build a better child. There is also what
>>>> marketers
>>>> refer
>>>> to as KGOY -- Kids Getting Older Younger -- their explanation for
>>>> why
>>>> 3-year-olds now play with toys that were initially intended for
>>>> middle-schoolers. (Since adults are staying younger older -- 50 is
>>>> the new
>>>> 30! -- our children may soon surpass us in age.)
>>>> Regardless of the cause, Miller says, accelerating kindergarten is
>>>> unnecessary: any early advantage fades by fourth grade. "It makes
>>>> a parent
>>>> proud to see a child learn to read at age 4, but in terms of
>>>> what's really
>>>> best for the kid, it makes no difference." For at-risk kids,
>>>> pushing too
>>>> soon may backfire. The longitudinal High/Scope Preschool Curriculum
>>>> Comparison Study followed 68 such children, who were divided between
>>>> instruction- and play-based classrooms. While everyone's I.Q. scores
>>>> initially rose, by age 15, the former group's academic achievement
>>>> plummeted. They were more likely to exhibit emotional problems and
>>>> spent
>>>> more time in special education. "Drill and kill," indeed.
>>>> Thinkers like Daniel Pink have proposed that this country's
>>>> continued
>>>> viability hinges on what is known as the "imagination economy":
>>>> qualities
>>>> like versatility, creativity, vision -- and playfulness -- that
>>>> cannot be
>>>> outsourced. It's a compelling argument to apply here, though a bit
>>>> disheartening too: must we append the word "economy" to everything
>>>> to
>>>> legitimize it? Isn't cultivating imagination an inherent good? I
>>>> would
>>>> hate
>>>> to see children's creativity subject to the same parental anxiety
>>>> that has
>>>> stoked the sales of Baby Einstein DVDs.
>>>> Jean Piaget famously referred to "the American question," which
>>>> arose when
>>>> he lectured in this country: how, his audiences wanted to know,
>>>> could a
>>>> child's development be sped up? The better question may be: Why
>>>> are we so
>>>> hellbent on doing so?
>>>> Maybe the current economic retrenchment will trigger a new
>>>> perspective on
>>>> early education, something similar to the movement toward local,
>>>> sustainable, organic food. Call it Slow Schools. After all, part
>>>> of what
>>>> got
>>>> us into this mess was valuing achievement, speed and results over
>>>> ethics,
>>>> thoughtfulness and responsibility. Then again, parents may glean the
>>>> opposite lesson, believing their kids need to be pushed even
>>>> harder in
>>>> order
>>>> to stay competitive in a shrinking job market.
>>>> I wonder how far I'm willing to go in my commitment to the cause:
>>>> would I
>>>> embrace the example of Finland -- whose students consistently come
>>>> out on
>>>> top in international assessments -- and delay formal reading
>>>> instruction
>>>> until age 7? Could I stick with that position when other second
>>>> graders
>>>> were
>>>> gobbling up "War and Peace" -- or at least the third Harry Potter
>>>> book?
>>>> In the end, the school I found for my daughter holds off on
>>>> homework until
>>>> fourth grade. (Though a flotilla of research shows homework
>>>> confers no
>>>> benefit -- enhancing neither retention nor study habits -- until
>>>> middle
>>>> school.) It's a start. A few days ago, though, I caught her
>>>> concocting a
>>>> pretend math worksheet. "All the other kids have homework," she
>>>> complained
>>>> with a sigh. "I wish I could have some, too."
>>>> Peggy Orenstein, a contributing writer, is the author of "Waiting
>>>> for
>>>> Daisy," a memoir.
>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>> xmca mailing list
>>>> xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
>>>> http://dss.ucsd.edu/mailman/listinfo/xmca
>> _______________________________________________
>> xmca mailing list
>> xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
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> David Preiss, Ph.D.
> Escuela de Psicología
> Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile
> Av Vicuña Mackenna - 4860
> 7820436 Macul
> Santiago, Chile
> Fono: 3544605
> Fax: 3544844
> e-mail: davidpreiss@uc.cl
> web personal: http://web.mac.com/ddpreiss/
> web institucional: http://www.epuc.cl/profesores/dpreiss
> _______________________________________________
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> xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
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Holli A. Tonyan, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Psychology
California State University, Northridge
18111 Nordhoff Street
Northridge, CA 91330

Tel: (818) 677-4970
Fax: (818) 677-2829
Office: ST321

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