How Young Is Too Young?
By Cameron Pipkin
Adults of the world rejoice! With every frightening thing facing us in 2012–a recession, gas prices, war in far-away places, the end of the Mayan calendar–it could be worse. We could all be four years old.
That’s right. Some reading I’ve done this weekend has led me to believe that 2012 may be one of the worst years ever for four years olds. I’m referring specifically to a document I found online titled “Pre-K Standards for the Common Core” which outlines a strikingly rigorous program for getting young children ready to perform Common Core skills like solving for variables and textual analysis. Could this be the future of pre-k education in a Common Core dominated US school system? I’ll refrain from mentioning the district that produced the document, but, suffice to say, the program it outlines is a far cry from the cookie/recess preschool model that most of us have come to know and love.
And isn’t as if the authors of “Pre-K Standards for the Common Core” don’t have a point. I can see how aligning pre-k curriculum to the Common Core Standards could give kids a pretty significant head start on what will soon become the central pursuit of their schooling. Much of what appears in the document, actually, might be pretty standard as far as pre-k curriculum goes (a subject I admittedly know little about). Count to ten, identify groups of numbers by sight, and basic alphabet learning all seem about right for small kids. There are some standards, however, that look a wee bit intense.
For example, under the heading “Operations and Algebraic Thinking,” one standard reads “Understand simple patterns: Duplicate and extend (e.g., What comes next?) simple patterns using concrete objects.”
Easy enough, I suppose, but algebraic thinking before my child can tie her own shoe? What ever happened to cookies, recess, and mastery of the up and down toothbrush stroke?
I know that we’re living in an increasingly competitive world and that our kids will only rise as high as our expectations of them, but are we robbing them just a little bit of the sweetness of childhood when we start them on the path to algebraic thinking soon after they’ve mastered toilet training? How young is too young, and what is the purpose of pre-k schooling anyhow?
I’d love to get your thoughts.