|A tiny mahogany whistle|
Risks of Early Academic Instruction
Research on the long-term effects of various curriculum models suggests that the introduction of academic work into the early childhood curriculum yields fairly good results on standardized tests in the short term but may be counterproductive in the long term (Schweinhart & Weikart, 1997; Marcon, 1995). For example, the risk of early instruction in beginning reading skills is that the amount of drill and practice required for success at an early age seems to undermine children's disposition to be readers. It is clearly not useful for a child to learn skills if, in the process of acquiring them, the disposition to use them is lost. In the case of reading in particular, comprehension is most likely to be dependent on actual reading and not just on skill-based reading instruction (Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998). On the other hand, acquiring the disposition to be a reader without the requisite skills is also not desirable. Results from longitudinal studies suggest that curricula and teaching should be designed to optimize the simultaneous acquisition of knowledge, skills, desirable dispositions, and feelings (Marcon, 1995). Another risk of introducing young children to formal academic work prematurely is that those who cannot relate to the tasks required are likely to feel incompetent. Students who repeatedly experience difficulties leading to feelings of incompetence may come to consider themselves stupid and bring their behavior into line accordingly. (Bandura et al., 1999)The whistle shown above was made by one of my 8th grade students from a piece of scrap mahogany. He had observed how a whistle works and decided to make one. He considers this small object to be a tremendous success, and the pleasure of success will demand greater success of him.
Make, fix and create...