"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Saturday, May 28, 2011

HHS Secretary Needs To Be Schooled In Child Development

Following on yesterday's post that mentioned the Feds are supplying $500m for "early learning programs" we must ask again, have we really identified an education problem that needs fixing? Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius referred to a series of studies that suggested that half of five-year-olds surveyed weren’t ready for the rigors of Kindergarten learning: “A number of children were missing the social and developmental skills which would allow them to sit in a classroom or play with others or listen to a teacher for any period of time.”

This response to that statement comes from a licensed clinical psychologist with 20 years experience:

Spending $500 million to get five-year-olds to sit still is like getting a Democrat to stop spending other people’s money. In theory it sounds good—really good—but it simply goes against nature. The natural inclination for most five-year-olds is to be extremely active. Normal pre-schoolers spend much of their day practicing their gross and fine-motor skills, with boys being especially active learners. They are not inclined to sit still, shut up, and listen to a teacher for anything but short periods of time.

Having had one of those boys myself, who didn't like to sit still, I must agree the doc. The primary problem, if there even was one, was not that he was not learning in class. In his case it also was not that he was a distraction to the other students. The real problem I heard at many parent teacher conferences was that he didn't "seem to be paying attention." I always followed this observation with the question, "Does he know the answer when you ask him a question?" which was almost invariably followed by a sheepish "Yes," and then usually a large "but"; "but he needs to be making notes" or, "but he's going to miss some of the things I say if he doesn't listen." What was really missing was the usual body language cues that our culture associates with paying attention: making eye contact, sitting still etc. He was still learning in his periphery.

This RTTT early learning program is being justified by a study that showed kids who start in pre-school programs are more likely to graduate high school. The only thing that shows is that reports can be found to justify almost anything. Studies have also shown that children who are far ahead of their peers in terms of reading in kindergarten are usually ranked level with their peers by third grade. In other words, unless you have an education program that will consistently support faster learners, any gains achieved early on will be lost by third grade.

Look at the program, "Teaching Your Baby To Read" which promises to teach infants as young as 10 months to read. If getting an early start is key, maybe we should all be teaching our infants to read. But take a closer look at that program and you will find it merely taps into an infants innate ability to make associations in the language development process. Show them a picture of a cat and say the word "cat" and they will learn the thing that is furry with four paws, whiskers and pointy ears is called "cat." Show them the word Cat on a sign, repeat it aloud and they will learn that those shapes mean cat. Show them the word dog, say Cat, and they will associate the word Dog with cat, because they don't have the cognitive ability to make the distinctions between the two words. Most people would recongize this process as the "whole language" curriculum that was favored for a while in so many schools. They would also realize that this flaw in "whole language" instruction is why it was dropped when it produced so many high schoolers who couldn't read. Your baby won't actually read, he will only know the specific words you have helped him to memorize. He will not be able to master new words on his own.

If you put some kids in an early school program, they will only learn what they are developmentally ready to learn. Anything else will just be smoke and mirrors.

It would seem far more logical that what the government wants from this program is to have children begin at a very early age to demonstrate the "behavior" the government wants: to be docile and cooperative. The next thing you know we will have an epidemic of ADD and ADHD because so many teachers are finding kindergarten students without the ability to "sit still" and "pay attention." The number of Adderall prescriptions will rise in response to this epidemic as will the government funding to investigate why so many children have this "disease." And it will be conviently forgotten that we created this problem by forcing all kids to fit into one norm, by a randomly assigned date.


  1. We already have an epidemic of ADD and ADHD diagnosis and push to get kids on meds, especially little boys. The classroom environment has to match the developmental stage of the children, not the other way around.

    The CDC data is stunning. See an overview here.

  2. This is all part of the communist plan #17


    A lot of people need to go to jail in order to save our children.


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