Monday, May 30, 2011

School Readiness

Remember the Ten Ways For Schools To Confuse a Child? Well, I'm pretty sure someone from the federal government read it and took my suggestions seriously. Because they are planning on taking one of the items on the list and running with it. Here it is:
Make a really big deal about how important it is for kids to get physical activity, and then force him to sit still for 95% of the school day.
This article explains the government's new early learning initiative, the point of which will be to train kids to be more "ready" for kindergarten. One of the things that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is especially concerned about is kids developing the ability to "sit still" and "listen to teachers." The government will offer $500 million in grants for states to "raise the quality of early learning and child care programs and to increase families’ access to them." These early learning programs should help solve this "problem" of kids not being able to sit still by age 5, along with other ones affecting school-readiness.

Would this count as good training for sitting still? Or are they too comfortable?
The confusing part is, other parts of the government spend lots of money figuring out stuff like this, about obesity and fitness. And you know what that brochure says about obesity? It says, "Children and adults with mobility limitations and intellectual or learning disabilities are at greatest risk for obesity." Um... mobility limitations like being made to sit still for hours every day? I would call that a pretty big limitation on mobility.

Let's think about this: Maybe the government wouldn't have to spend so much money on getting kids to be physically active outside of school, if they didn't spend so much time (and now even more money) trying to get them to stop moving during school.

What if we let the kids be active when they want to, and sit still when they want to? Instead, the government tells children: Make sure you get plenty of physical activity, but not on our time.

Sebelius also says that half of the children they tested in Kansas were "not ready" for Kindergarten.

I wonder if it ever occurs to any government officials that if HALF of the kids aren't ready for school, then maybe the kids aren't the ones with the problem. Just maybe the problem is that the schools aren't ready for the kids. As far as I'm concerned, it's not maybe. This definitely IS the problem. The schools aren't ready for the kinds of kids who can't sit still and listen.

Instead of spending half a billion dollars getting hundreds of thousands of kids ready for something they might be physically incapable of doing (like sitting still), why not send out a message to all of their schools? The message could be really simple, and would not be expensive to distribute. I'll even save them the trouble of paying someone to write it up:
Dear Schools of America,

Stop making the kids sit still so much. We'll give you a break on all the testing.

The Government


  1. I am really loving your blog. You write very eloquently things that I think about a lot myself. So all I can really say is ditto to all of this. If we have to implement earlier and earlier "training" programs simply to get kids to sit still, why has it not occurred to anyone that sitting still probably just isn't an age-appropriate activity? My three year old can sit still for hours if she's interested in something. Considering the reputation kids have for having short attention spans and not being able to be still, it surprised me.

    On the other hand, try and get her to sit still for something she doesn't care about and, well, it's not going to happen. But I don't know many adults who will sit through a movie they're not interested in, a play or musical they don't enjoy, a lecture about a subject they don't like... Why should our kids have to?

  2. Thanks Lindsay. I have the same experience with my kids (4 and 2). They focus on things they want to focus on, for as long as they are interested in! It's not different than the way adults behave, as you said. The problem is, we have so many things WE think our kids NEED to focus on, and when they don't we think there is something wrong with them.

  3. "When thousands and even million of people expereince essentially identical problems, defining these problems as "individual" oversimplifies to the point of absurdity". This is a quote that I used in almost all of my essays and exams during my bachelor because I think it captures very well what is wrong with the world today. Depression, poverty, "inability" to sit still, ADHD etc.

  4. @Brave New Life, Exactly! Maybe we are trying to fit a bunch of different-shaped pegs into the same tiny holes!! It seems so obvious. I wonder how long it will take before we as a society will acknowledge this.

  5. I was one of those kids who had a hard time sitting still in school. I had a shitload of energy and schoolwork (especially math) bored and frustrated me to the point where I was acting up in class. The solution: dope me up with ritalin. Sure, it helped and my grades improved, but it did me no service, only the system.