GUEST EDITORIAL: Keep education age appropriate for all students
Many folks still remember when the Soviet Union launched the first satellite in the late 1950s. This sparked an educational revolution that has continued from at least 1959 into the 21st Century, or in other words, for the last 50 years. The comm...
Many folks still remember when the Soviet Union launched the first satellite in the late 1950s. This sparked an educational revolution that has continued from at least 1959 into the 21st Century, or in other words, for the last 50 years. The common word was that we need to educate our children and bring them up to the same level and exceed the student achievement in other industrialized countries. A new emphasis was placed on science and math. In many ways, we have made a number of accomplishments.
However, when it comes to educating engineers, scientists and other professionals, we are still behind many other industrialized nations. One of the primary objectives for school systems across North America was to start various types of instructions and courses at lower grade levels. Algebra for example, became an eighth grade (or even a seventh grade) course for many districts. Previously, algebra was taught in ninth grade. There were some introductory algebraic concepts introduced during the last few weeks of eighth grade in the math classes for that level.
Teaching students how to read began in first grade for many years in America. It was during this first year that students were taught the phonetics and how to read with a step-by-step instructional process. There were many students in the 1940s, and even into the 50s, that never attended kindergarten. However, due to their age level of six years, with many approaching seven, their brain development was more appropriate for learning to read as well as other subjects.
This was very beneficial for children. And by the way, having gained a knowledge base of the English phonetic structure, they had a solid foundation for learning new languages. One very important element with this concept is that students are able to "think" in the new language much quicker.
The growth of the human mind is a series of developmental stages for the ability to learn. As a child grows older from infancy to the teens, the brain grows and with it new levels and ability to learn and remember new concepts for long term results.
As pointed out by David Elkind in his book, "Miseducation," (Published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., latest printing, December, 2003), instruction that is too early does not have any lasting benefits and can cause harm. Elkind points out that children who learn how to read closer to or at age seven, have fewer reading problems than those who start early in their sixth year. Although there are exceptions, most children do not show a full interest in reading until later at age five or even six.
It is a common belief that the best way to give students an edge against the world competition is to start early. They are often pushed harder and harder, believing that by pushing the students they will accomplish and learn even more.
Unfortunately, this is a concept that is used all too often in the industrial environment where it is often believed that by pushing the staff harder, and with never a compliment or a thank you, productivity will increase.
There has been research over the years that show that children who have been in a tedious learning environment, are no further ahead than other students who began at a more appropriate age. As mentioned previously, even into the 1950s, many students did not attend kindergarten. By second grade, such students were at the same level as students who attended kindergarten.
Admittedly there are children who are anxious to learn how to read even as young as three.
However, they want to learn in accordance with their own individual brain development and frequently ask their parents and other family members about different words and many other interesting concepts. In fact, this illustrates an important need for gifted programs as well as the music and arts in our schools.
The most important thing to keep in mind for the startup of the educational process is that "children must be children." They need to have a close relationship with their parents and relatives. This provides them with a sense of security and self-confidence. Such a base line has a strong influence especially approaching the teenage years, which means far less involvement in drugs or gangs. In fact, gang activity is actually caused by a lack of a sense of security and belonging with a family.
It boils down to this fact. We must look back at kindergarten when it was a more relaxed half-day program. Children were not expected to know all the letter sounds and other concepts This created a stronger foundation for a child's self-confidence for learning in first grade.
Now, unfortunately, kids who don't know these concepts before starting first grade are regarded as deficient. We do have a solution by creating a step-by-step curriculum with the learning concepts designed for the appropriate age and brain development and grade levels. Hmm, does this mean algebra in ninth grade, and perhaps precalculus at the second semester of 12th grade?
We cannot change the way human beings develop mentally or physically. Humans learn now in the same manner as we did thousands of years ago. We cannot say that children can learn anything at any age as it ignores individual growth and development.
Patrick C. Dorin is a member of the Superior school board and retired as principal. He has also worked in the railroad industry and has had 45 books published.