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October 18, 2010


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*Sigh* Wasn't this the sole purpose of the start-up of Sesame Street and the rest of The Children's Television Workshop shows? Some of the shows are still there (although Sesame Street moves too fast for me now... everything is faster paced these days) BUT I don't know anyone who watches them with their kids or even just plops the kid down in front of those shows.
No, now it's Disney Channel or a movie (or Oprah or whatever the caregiver wants to watch). Entertainment, but not the kind of value that we got from Electric Company.

I'm not saying the answer is television. But I am lamenting the loss of something that did make a difference.

unmitigated me

Head Start helps, but where I live, its first goal is to be sure the children are properly FED. So far to go...


In essence, I agree with you that these children have been short-changed, educationally speaking. But I take issue with the typical solutions proposed by the educational establishment. Even if we did provide free preschool for economically disadvantaged kids, many of them still would not be developmentally ready to read until 6 and a half or 7. What defeats these children the most are the over-reaching academic expectations for the younger set and the lack of healthy play time and peer interaction time that provides the real basis for academic learning in the later years.

If you think about it, our whole educational system is upside-down. We push heavy-duty academics too early, and then in the later grades we have the students doing stupid assignments such as making posters, etc., when they should be buckling down for the serious stuff. There are some educational specialists (many, actually) who say that if we don't push the early reading for economically-disadvantaged students, we are guilty of lowering expectations for this socio-economic group. What they ignore is the fact that spending the early academic years in a book-rich, play-friendly environment is beneficial to the growing brain, more so than forced academics at a developmentally inappropriate level.

The specialists also point out that if we don't teach the kids to read in kindergarten (when many of them are not ready), then they will fall further and further behind in 1st and 2nd grade and get discouraged. This is true; but to me, that calls for making those early grades less academic and more play and creativity-oriented for those who need it. If you do happen to have an early reader, he/she can still thrive in such an environment. Young kids need to read and be read to - they do not need to be writing reports and researching things on the Web. When well-meaning educators/progressives design programs that emphasize academics in kindergarten and first grade, what they are doing is pulling the rug out from underneath these disadvantaged children.


Opinionated today, I guess - but, really, this is my pet peeve. I could say scads more on this subject, but I will spare you.

Mama Hen Em

What suburbancorrespondent said. Exactly.

Life As I Know It

I am starting to take notice of the finer points of education this year, and the disparity in education quality from town to town. How can my kids be learning more than the kids two towns over? Something is wrong.

busy bee suz

Great post Jenn.
We do have the headstart pre-k program in our area for those in need. But I often wonder if those who need it actually take advantage.

Kelly, The Glass Dragonfly

I agree Jenn. Weary.


Have you ever heard the term "otherizing"? If not, you may want to look it up. You're amazingly good at it. Really, truly gifted at otherizing. How you refer to yourself as a "have" and others as "have-nots" is a beautiful example of it.

Did you really mean to actually refer to yourself as a "have" and these children as "have nots"? Or was this some Stephen Colbert-esque attempt at satire? If it was serious, which I think we both know it was, then there is a lot that you "have not".

green girl in wisconsin

Not only is it necessary, it's biblical (just sayin'--since the TP crew claim to LOVE the book as much as I do). It's not enough just to pull out random quotes about the sanctity of life and marriage, we have to LIFT EACH OTHER UP.


I was just about getting ready to write something similar, although about the reality I meet in my little school in Lappland, Sweden.
I guess this is a problem we have to deal with in all of the so-called Western World.


I don't understand why we don't identify these kids earlier and give the additional spport they need. We somehow fund support/special classes for the developmentally handicapped (sorry if that is not the current PC term) so why can't we do the same for the kids who come into school without the necessary preparation - at least catch them when they go into middle school. I agree by high school is is a really big job to get those who are still engaged to catch up.

If we don't prioritize education, we are going to be paying a lot more in other ways down the road. That is why we have high costs for law enforcement, prisons and all sorts of welfare programs in CA.


Yes, yes, YES, suburbancorrespondent! My first thought was "how about having the 'haves' slow down some instead of trying to speed up the 'have nots'?"


Oh Jenn! Did I ever tell you I taught a year in a "ghetto" area Head Start? It was heartbreaking. Emotionally, it was the hardest job I have ever had, and I got the job shortly after my fiance died. My heart still aches for those kids, and for the parents who honestly are trying to get out of that situation for their kids.
Boy, could you and I have a long chat over lunch about education. When are you coming to Pittsburgh? ; )


I don't understand Kate's touchy comment. I'm guessing that there's more to it than what Jenn wrote in her post.

gary rith

Yeah, Kate, huh????
There was the poem, of course, about what happens when a dream is deferred, and basically, as others above have said, when a dream is never seen or realized or even mentioned, you have people who will crowd the prison system. Good education trumps crime every day.


I hear ya, Jenn. It's very challenging for me (and sometimes frustrating ... and sometimes rewarding) to see what kids come into high school knowing (and not knowing). I work with a number of very bright, really engaged kids who are working their tails off to catch up to other students who come from either wealthier families or families who emphasize the importance of education. Even for the kids who do take advantage of programs designed to catch them up (e.g., a voluntary afterschool tutoring program that I run), it is incredibly frustrating for them to see the gap between their vocabularies and what certain nationwide standardized tests feel that their vocabularies should be.

But, you are fighting the good fight, and that counts for something. I'm not crazy enough to think that most of my former students will remember the differences between direct and indirect characterization (or that they would ever need to), but many of them come back to visit and tell me that they enjoyed their time in my class and that they felt more prepared and confident about their abilities.

mrs. g.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised to see that you are still being hounded by the moral minority. I continue to wonder why people who want to bring you down keep showing up here. I suppose it's for the greater good. Not.

I guess this will be good practice for you when and if you ever teach high school, Jenn. You'll be prepared for some of the behaviors.


Hmmm, I'm torn in the comments section. I have a first grader reading at a 3rd grade level and going to a 2nd grade classroom for math. While I like for him to have time to play, I'd prefer he do that on his "free time" at school during recess or at home. When he's at school, I like him challenged and moving forward, not "stuck" so everyone can catch up. That means creative solutions sometimes. I don't want others who aren't at his level to be frustrated and feel bad. So I certainly don't want that for my son. But the solution is not to make the kids who are at grade level or above slow down. I also disagree that children are not ready to read in Kindergarten. As a former teacher, I can tell say without a doubt that reading to a child from a very young age is the key. There was no fancy program we did with my son or flash cards. We read to him and we talked to him. A lot. And those things are free. I don't believe in throwing money to support a parent's lack of responsibility or accountability. It's criminal that a child can come to Kindergarten without any learning disability and NOT know his or her letters. I'm sorry. There's no excuse for that. Yet so many of them do. Yes, spending the "early years" in a book-rich, play-friendly environment is critical. I just happen to believe that those years take place at home. Read a lot to your little ones. Play a lot. And talk a lot! It's not a solution, but I would bet that more of these kids who are struggling wouldn't be struggling as much if their home life involved these things and their parents more.

unmitigated me

Book-rich and play-friendly are lovely goals, right behind properly fed, clothed, and supervised, not to mention having a mom who could afford decent prenatal care AND knew she needed it.


Came here from Allmycke's blog referral, and have been "chewing" on this for two solid days. And your longer, even better, post the next day. Today, at a Teacher Inservice, we talked extensively about what many of our children "have not," and what we DO "have" and I couldn't agree more. I need to mull my thoughts over a bit more, and then will post my own thoughts on my own blog. But I just wanted to say YOUR words, and Trudies, have made a strong impact on my own thinking, and I agree, 110%, with both of you. I think true at heart teachers all over the world would agree with you. I think, at our core, most teachers DO feel this way, or we wouldn't, couldn't, BE good teachers. Thanks.


I agree with Michelle about not slowing down the kids who are at grade level or above. I spent my entire childhood that way. I began receiving "PHS" (Post High School) scores on my standardized tests in 1st grade, and for my entire elementary school experience I was basically assigned the role of Teacher's Assistant.

So, great, I can collate, staple and make bulletin boards. School taught me nothing; it was already dumbed down enough.

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