Monday, June 19, 2017


Oh, if this was but a game, we could clear the board and carefully place the pieces and start over. But it is not. Educational policy makers and politicians have made such a mess of American education. Ideas and patterns have become deeply entrenched, and the politicians keep hammering away at it, most often from the wrong direction.

I am intrigued that as toddlers, some will begin walking as early as 10 months, and others as late as 13 and pediatricians tell their parents, not to worry. We know that to walk requires the development of two things, (not necessarily separate things) the brain and the body. Not all children develop at the same pace. But when it comes to reading, parents and teachers are programmed to panic if their children are not at their proposed "level" when they're in first grade. The stupidity of that is enormous and destructive. Not only do schools then have reading experts to apply special attention to those kids who do not measure up, some children learn to hate reading and form a resistance to it.

Do we think that children past the age of 5 no longer have variations in the rates at which their minds and bodies mature? Or do we know enough about the variables of human development to understand that developmental ranges widen rather than narrow and that academic success may be denied to many children simply because the pressures of their schooling denied them the gift of receiving the right stimulation at the right time? I suggest that we ease up on the early years (and all the years), allow children to play more in school, feature things for them to do and allow academic success to come in its own time. Let's allow for the late bloomers.

I watched 60 minutes last night and they featured a chess program in Franklin County, Mississippi in which the game of chess has been introduced to elementary school children as a means of assisting their academic success. The program is remarkable. Chess has transformed much more than school. Many of the children play the game on and out of school, and have been made aware of their intelligence. Many now want to go to college, an idea that would never have occurred to them in the past.

The point is that there are very many wonderful things to do in school other than fill out worksheets. The children in Franklin County, Mississippi are going home with chess, not homework, and because of their enthusiasm for it, get much more than homework worksheets could provide.

There are any number of ways that schooling can take advantage of real life to capture the child's attention and interest. Music is one, making useful beauty another. How about dance? It appears that chess is another. Are our children not worthy of the investment?

Make, fix, create and offer others the opportunity to love learning likewise.


  1. Hi Doug

    A very interesting post.

    Once every some years a suggestion is made
    that perhaps boys should start school a year later than girls, based on that they generally is a year behind in maturity. No experiments have yet been carried out to test if it would be beneficial.
    I am a bit biased because it could be a success, but it could also be the opposite.
    Our youngest son advanced a class because he was way ahead of his class mates, and he felt that school was boring instead of interesting. Luckily his class teacher and the math teacher had spotted this and suggested that he advanced. Now he would not have benefited from a one year difference between the boys and girls. But it might still be a good initial plan.

    Usually there will be a huge difference when the girls start entering the puberty earlier than the boys, sort of 6th and 7th grade. This also speaks in favor of the division idea.

    Some schools have made experiments in dividing classes into genders which could seem like a step backwards. But they found out that there was a huge gain to be found in subjects such as experimental physics, where the girls usually stood back and let the boys do the actual experimentation.


  2. The ideas of grade level and grading are both impositions of artificiality and abstraction. Perhaps if we were paying attention to the interests and needs of the individual child we would not be putting children in classes for our own convenience.

    What are they looking at when they plan their experiments? Is it readiness to sit still and go through academic lessons? And if that's the only learning schools are interested in then we have problems.