Thursday, August 26, 2010

race to the top, or do kids need more play?

The US Department of Education named "winners" in the race to the top second round of funding awards. It amounts to more teach-to-the-test, school accountability stuff intended to make American schools more competitive for the 21st century. You can read about it in Education Week, Race to Top Winners Rejoice, Losers Parse Scores.

Or for more interesting reading, Education Week also has an article about play. Teaching Secrets: Let Them Play. We can learn a few things from standardized tests. For instance, in Finland (no doubt my regular readers are tired of hearing about Finland) children in 8th grade are significantly better at reading and math than students in the US. They begin reading at age 8. We begin at 5. Do the math. They beat us by waiting, by playing, by doing crafts in Kindergarten. They become better readers in 37.5% less time by being cognizant and respectful of the natural development that takes place in each child.

If we have become a nation of idiots, we have only ourselves to blame. We decided as a national policy that it would be fine to be an information based economy and a nation of consumers instead of fixers, makers, and growers.


  1. I admire your ability to be brief on this subject. My ex-wife was a teacher. I was usually horrified at what she described as the actual workings of the school systems.

    American education seems to be designed to produce idiots capable of only rote memorization; and not much of that.

    I'm going into a corner to rant by myself now.

  2. It is a rare administrator these days that can give his teachers autonomy in the classroom. My mother was often assigned student teachers who had no idea how to spell, could barely speak a coherent sentence, and had a great deal of difficulty following instructions. Thus teaching became a profession requiring a great deal of supervision and professional oversight.

    In Finland the top 30 percent of college graduates become teachers and most have advanced degrees. I suspect the high regard given to the teaching profession has a lot to do with Uno Cygnaeus's Folk Schools in which educational sloyd was invented.

    Here in the US, education is quite damaged in comparison. You can't blame the whole thing on teachers, schools, administrations or parents, but must look at the whole culture of education.

    However, the easiest possible start on change involves play, and better timing with regard to when students begin reading. My mother would always tell her children's parents, "when you ask your kids what they did at school and they tell you "play,' you should know that play is the very most effective way to learn and the play we have designed for your children is essential to their "education."