OK, it’s a little thing, so a short post. I’ve several “longer harder to finish” posts that I ought to finish up, but this one just got to me.
I’m at a weekly dinner with friends. These folks are generally a mixed lot, about even 1/3 rds of conservative, progressive, and libertarian. Nor is there a particular shortage of intelligence. Of the 7 folks there, 2 are in Mensa now (one runs some of the operations), I qualify (if I ever get around to doing that application thing – my scores are significantly over the bar), 2 more have college degrees (and are probably close to the Mensa line one way or the other) and 2 are presently working on degrees. (One of them, my daughter, the other her boyfriend).
So it’s a pretty good bundle of thinking ability.
Discussion turns to ‘things of interest’ to the two who are teachers (my wife and her sister). Turns out there’s a new law in California. It mandates that school districts must provide a sort of ‘preschool’ for some students. Not full on preschool. No, they could not mandate that (as the voters had rejected a proposal to mandate preschool as not being a great idea to put on the tax payer dime…) But the usual ‘1/2 a loaf’ salami technique of pushing for ever more Government Programs one tiny slice at a time if you can’t get the whole thing swallowed at once, public vote be damned.
Realize that the sample IS a bit biased. Two of them are teachers, and one of them works in a commercial day care center. So these are folks who are “into kids and teaching”. But still, one might expect just a bit more depth of thought…
What surprised me was this: NOBODY brought up the issue of cost. Not a one. Even though the school districts are already doing ‘furlough days’ as there is not enough money to fund present operations. Even though the State of California is somewhere between $14 Billion and $40 Billion in the hole (depending on which funny numbers you use). Even though we are presently putting on hold ANOTHER mandate, for a smaller class size. Even though we are for all intents and purposes The Greece of the USA.
No, the discussion was entirely about how GOOD this was. How some kids need it and it was just great to have the state requiring this. There was also bit of mildly dismayed nattering about how it was a bit wrong that parents were not REQUIRED to send their kids to kindergarten, and some talk about the silliness of having mandatory testing standards for Kindergarten when not all students were mandated to attend…
Everything was focused on one POV: “It is good, so ought to be a mandatory government program”. Not a peep about cost, money, logistics, propriety of the State mandating how Local School Districts MUST spend “their” money.
I finally couldn’t stand it and made one snide remark about the sanity of having a State Mandatory Prison Attendance for the first 18 years of your life, which got me looks like I’d opened a beer can during church service…
At any rate, at that point I just let it drop and let everyone else go on with the self congratulatory “Oooohhhh it’s good ‘for the children’ discussion” all the while thinking just how much this was a microcosm of what’s wrong with our system.
The simple fact is that the whole ‘positive thinking’ and ‘self actualizing’ generation just want’s a “feel good story”. If it’s a feel good story and can be done in a 30 second sound bite, we are “all for it”. Extra help for kinders? Go for it. Free food for hungry? Yeah! More police? Why not? Clear drug users off the street? (and out of their homes…) Sure, sounds good. Go for it.
Negative issues, like “how to pay for it”, and complicated issues, like “is it the responsibility of the State?”, and really complicated ones like “Ought the State be mandating how local money is spent? Ought not the money come with the mandate?”; those are just not “feel good” enough, and they have those ‘negative vibes’ issues tied up in them. Besides, it takes more than 30 seconds to discuss and it causes some folks to feel bad as they already said they were for “the good thing” and now you are being mean by making them think about bad things…
So that, IMHO, is the ‘nutshell’ version of what is wrong with our States, our Countries, and why the world is marching to a Debt Doom full bore. Because NOBODY is welcome at the party if they bring up negative issues and don’t endorse the happy talk soundbites.
Free Healthcare? Sounds good, count everyone in. “Be Green”? Green must be good, so just slap “Green” on a topic and it sails into law. Freebees and Gimmes all around, with plenty of feel good too. Oh, and send the bill to the “other guys”… Maybe the rich folks, or somebody. Just have the Government pay for it, they are “someone else”….
So government grows, without bounds, ether on size, or scope, or increasingly on the power of the beast.
It is, in essence, a “Feel Good Cancer” and will only stop when we run out of Money Drug to feed it.
For anyone who might not have a clue about the particular law, here’s a link to a Silicon Valley newspaper article about it. It is state wide, though. It also was signed into law about a year ago by Arnold R.I.N.O so this is a Republican Feel Good Spend More law.
Oh, and realize, I’m not an evil heartless bastard who wants to deny folks an education. I’d be all for the program if it were something that was a local school district OPTION and even more in favor if it were “parents can pay for it”. Kind of like the private preschool they all can buy today, just offered by the local school district. It would seem that many folks have forgotten that Kindergarten started as EXACTLY that, a totally OPTIONAL preschool to prepare those who needed a little extra for their FIRST grade of school… So now we are getting a slow recursion into pre-pre-preparation… ALL on the public taxpayer dime. Because it feels good “for the children”…
California school districts prepare for a new grade level: transitional kindergarten
By Katy Murphy
Posted: 11/28/2011 06:56:42 AM PST
We voted down ‘preschool’ so now it’s relabeled as “transitional kindergarten”…
Soon, many children in California will have two years to learn how to share, count and sound out words before they move on to first grade.
A new state law, the Kindergarten Readiness Act, gradually will move the birthday cutoff date for new kindergartners from December to September. The law also requires districts — beginning next year — to offer a new grade level for children with fall birthdays who are too young to start kindergarten. Researchers and advocates say transitional kindergarten, as it’s called, will better prepare children to be successful in school.
In California, where education cutbacks have become the norm, some marvel that the state is creating something new for kids.
“It’s one of those little bright lights in an otherwise dark scene,” said Stanford University education professor Deborah Stipek, an expert on early education.
Unlike universal preschool, a ballot measure rejected by California voters in 2006, not all children will have access to the two-year kindergarten program. Only children with birthdays between Sept. 2 and Dec. 2 — those who would have been eligible for kindergarten under the old system — will be guaranteed a slot once the program is fully implemented in 2014.
I’m sure I’m now going to be cast as a Surly Curmudgeon. What could possibly be more evil that wanting to deny little children the help they NEED? What could be more heartless than leaving them ignorant and abandoned?
What I’ve observed is that kids learn. Everything, and all the time. Often they learn more out of school than they do IN school. Especially the younger they are. In many cases, being institutionalized just kills their learning, exploring, and developing. That, btw, is the whole idea behind the move toward the Montessori method.
So it’s not like I’m going out on a limb here and saying something made up from thin air… I’ve seen kids in Montessori schools, and they often progress very fast indeed. IIRC, we had our kids in a Montessori preschool (paid for from MY pocket) and it worked well. (Or maybe the school was only a ‘semi-Montessori”… it’s been 20 years now and I’ve not thought about it in a while ;-)
I’ve also noticed, over the years, many stories of folks from the Frontier Days who had no formal school at all as a kid, then when plunked into a school at about 12 or so, would complete the first few grades in a single year. We all learn academic things faster as we get older (much of the earliest years being spent soaking up language and culture; so later, when those cycles are available, we can go faster on the more abstract stuff) up to about age 10. So, IMHO, it would be quite reasonable to just let kids be kids until about 10. THEN hit them with the academic track. As it is now, we are just truncating their ability to explore, create, invent, be independent, develop their own sense of interests, etc. (BTW, my High School Chemistry teacher held this opinion so that’s where I first ran into it. Spent many years trying to refute it. I’m now pretty sure he was right.)
For some of us, school was largely just a forced labor camp prison anyway. Can’t say that I learned much at school until about middle of high school. My mother taught me to read (before 1st grade) and most of history I learned on my own. I did get some math exposure of interest in about 5th grade… When we learned number bases, factoring, and ‘new math’ … and I realized that I’d been doing factoring when in 2nd or 3rd grade where we were required to memorize the ‘times table’ and I’d noticed it had patterns.
I did 9x as 3x3x and I did 10x as a decimal point shift. 8x was 2x4x. The elevens were a 10x and add. It was the 12x that was my downfall… Doing verbal ‘times tables’ exams with the teacher I was in the middle of a particularly long one when she called “time” on me. I think it was 12 x 9 and I’d hit 3 x 3 x 3 x 4 and was pondering that in any case I ended up with some combination of 12 and 9 or 27 x 4 and had decided to go for 27 x 4…. So, two weeks later I’d memorized a few sparse entries of the table (the ones with long factoring strings) and passed. It was gratifying to find out there was a theory behind what I was doing and it was “good”… as I’d been told it was “bad” to not memorize my ‘times tables’… but it just seemed more ‘compact’ to do it via factors… Having a name for them was a comfort.
Then another long gap until about my Sophomore or Junior Year of high school. Chemistry, physics, advanced math and calculus were all interesting. Biology I’d already pretty much learned on my own at the library. Radio Class was fun (we built radios) but I’d also been doing that on my own… I had a better grasp of the sweep of history than most (from movies and books), so class was mostly the mind numbing memorize dead politicians and dates crap. Freshman English was largely an exercise in learning to hate a language I loved (and could use better than most in the class, including the ‘teacher’ of my first year… my second teacher was a gem, though). She saved me from hating the topic via being a decent human being and actually caring about communications more than sentence diagrams …. How can you learn to love a thing by killing it and dissecting it?…
All told, probably about 2 years worth of my internment were of benefit… But it kept a bunch of teachers employed…
No, I’m not special. There were a fairly large number of “dumb as a post” kids who would have been better off learning a trade (and most of them did, just not in school). We DID have a large shop in high school where most of them learned to fix cars, tractors, pumps, and we had a couple of lathes they learned. Oh, and we had ‘home economics’ (which is rather redundant as ‘economics’ means ‘home laws’ so it’s “home home laws”) that was largely ‘how to cook’. I wanted to take it, but as I’d been cooking since I was 6 anyway and as it was an ‘all girls’ class, decided to spare myself the “embarrassment”. Oh, and I DID take the typing class. Me and almost all girls. They went on to be secretaries. I went on to college. Probably the most valuable class I had in high school. (But now kids learn to type before they can write… all on their own…) For most of those kids, the time spent in things like “Civics” and “Geography” class were pointless, only being slightly more useful than their time in geometry and physics…
( I know, I tutored many of them. Just enough to get done, then they would flush it from their minds). BTW, the “shop” and home economics are now gone, along with band. Not academic enough (and too useful to life skills… )
So maybe I’m biased…
But if I had it to do over again, I’d have skipped most of my school years; spent a lot more time in the library, and likely picked it up in about the middle of High School – at about age 12… I know that many of my classmates would have been better off skipping a lot of it and just taking “shop” along with ‘remedial english’ and ‘remedial math’ in high school (which they took anyway).
But for whatever reasons, our society has decided to send Every Child off to Kinder Reeducation Kamp; now to begin even earlier…
Oh well, it’s not like the State is so broke they have no idea how broke they are, like Vallejo has gone bankrupt and serves as roll model for other cities in queue, or that the local counties are largely bankrupt just trying to avoid the actual filing.
No, none of that matters.
I can only speculate that it is because we don’t have a Mandated Economics Class at any point in the curriculum…
You know, we ought to add a year to high school, just so we can fit in a complete Economics education too… ;-)