Taking Steps Toward Leadership–Education

What does it take to be a leader among nations?  Knowledge?  Innovation?  Creativity?  Communication?  Manipulation of numerical data to describe the physical and theoretical world?  We learn these skills in school, and we also  learn them from our home environment, our friends, the library, and electronic media.

The most important thing we learn anywhere, in my opinion, is how to learn.  According to Montessori, early childhood education is “…characterized by an emphasis on independence, freedom within limits, and respect for a child’s natural psychological, physical, and social development.”  Kids learn by playing.  They are hands-on learners.  “How does it look?  How does it feel?  How does it taste?  How does it move?  Does this part fit with that part?  How does it sound?  Can I make that sound?”  How much adult input is needed to convey the information the children seek?  They make the items available to the children and then get out of the way. You can put 30 kids in a room with stuff to do and they will play pretty well.  There may be desks and tables and chairs, but they’re not in rows or in circles facing a blackboard.  It is not a quiet and studious environment.

How do children learn to read and love reading?  Parents make a habit of reading to them.  One parent I knew would teach her toddler a word:  D d d   aw aw aw  guh guh guh…Dog!  Then she’d point to the picture and say “dog” and then point to the word and the letters and the child would say the letters with her and repeat the word.  For the rest of the story, when ever the word, “dog” came up, the child would read it instead of the parent.  Later in the day, the child could be seen “reading” the same book to his teddy bear and pointing out the word, “dog” and teaching his teddy.

Your child is 5 and so you go to…dat dat dahhhhh…  The Kindergarten readiness page:  “Nebraska law entitles children to receive free public education the year that they turn five on or before July 31. This is called a “cutoff date.” Schools cannot test age-eligible children for kindergarten entrance, nor suggest delaying entrance. It is the responsibility of schools to be ready to meet the individual needs of every age-eligible child, regardless of their abilities.”  Abilities?  Entrance exams for Kindergarten?  Who would even expect to see these and yet they provide a guide for skills the child should have on entering kindergarten.

[From the Nebraska Department of Education… https://www.education.ne.gov/OEC/pdfs/Ready_for_Success_Booklet.pdf%5D

Support language and learning by giving your child chances to: 

  • Be read to every day & talk about words you see 
  • Practice drawing, writing, and recognizing numbers, shapes, colors, letters, sounds and her/his name 
  • Work on a task until it’s done, with support as needed 
  • Play! Children learn best when they’re having fun, so use games, toys, natural events and routines to teach, rather than using flashcards and worksheets.

But when they get to Kindergarten, they must sit in the desks facing the black board, or in a circle on the floor and learn how to publish a book.  Now read the guidelines for Kindergarten in the Nebraska Educational Standards:  Kindergarten guidelines  Did you read all 5 pages?  They must engage 8 hours a day for 5 days a week with no naps, 15 min recesses, limited lunch time and organized play.  Though the prescribed day length and curriculum and scheduling is defined by the school system, this seems to be the standard. Average class size is 20 or thereabouts.  What is the best way to prepare a child to sit for 6-8 hours?  Put him in front of Sesame Street.  Imagine 6 hours a day of Sesame street.  What is the longest amount of time spent on a concept–minutes?  How does that promote long term concentration?  What does it promote?  the ability to sit in one place for 6 hours.  News flash…Kindergarten teachers are not Elmo!  They are not there to entertain the children or to lecture them!  They supervise active play that teaches the children.  I remember a kindergarten teacher that would read a story to us right before nap time.  We went to school for 1/2 days.  The Horace Mann School was a lab school that was attached to the college and made use of every new thing that came out to see if there was a better way to educate children.  We might be able to write our names at the end of the school year, but no one was expected to do that at the beginning of the year.

The Fallacy that is messing things up is that the head start will make the difference in the amount of material learned and understood and therefore put us ahead when the children graduate into the real world.  We have been Sesame Street kids since 1969.  Our children should be brilliant now because we grew up on Sesame Street and learned and then our kids did.  Why then did we have to come up with strategies for “no child left behind” because the educational level of our kids dropped?  Children cannot be left behind if they’re getting all the education they need from TV. Even the poor have TV.  What happened?  Didn’t parents say, “Leave us alone and go watch Sesame Street!” enough?  Weren’t TV’s used as babysitters for years?

Let me tell you what I have learned in 50 years of teaching piano:  There are some bright 3-year-olds out there, but not all of them have the capacity or the interest in playing piano.  Some don’t have the concentration.  Some don’t have the coordination.  Some don’t like music.  Of the 3-year-olds I have started, only 1 was significantly advanced in her studies by age 5 that she could outplay a 5 year old beginner at the end of the 1st year of his training.  Translated into non musical terms, a 5 year old can process and learn things of an abstract manner in a shorter amount of time and with less effort than a 3 year old who studies the same material over 2 years.  The result of early training is negligible by age 5.  One child I taught was an immigrant who had not had any formal schooling though he was 8 years old.  He had not learned his numbers or letters, though he could write his name.  Being home schooled and tutored in his first year, he caught up to the other 2nd graders and surpassed them in 3rd grade.

United States performance in education has dropped because our focus is on training babies the way we train college students, and training college students the way we used to train babies.  College students shouldn’t have to take remedial math and English classes.  There shouldn’t have to be a curve in the grading scale so all the members of the class can pass.  The idea of advanced education shouldn’t be to get more money in tuition and fees.  It should be for positions that require advance education.  As Mike Rowe says, “We’re lending money we don’t have, to kids who will never be able to pay it back, for jobs that no longer exist.”  It isn’t unlike the Mortgage Crisis where we were giving loans to people who shouldn’t have houses and would never pay back the loan!  The belief was that Everyone should own a home.  Just like today, Everyone should have a college education.  Anyone should have be able to get a home, but not everyone.  And Anyone should have access to a college education, but not everyone.

The way to lead in education is to teach children how to learn, then give them the opportunity to learn.  We are NOT to propagandize them in school.  We shouldn’t be training them to do factory work and then insisting they go to get a college education to end up in the factory anyway and in debt besides.  5 year olds do not need to know  

  1. 1 Speaking: Students will develop, apply and refine speaking skills and strategies to communicate key ideas in a variety of situations.
  2. LA 0.3.1.a Communicate ideas clearly to others within structured classroom activities and routines using appropriate word choice, proper grammar, and complete sentences.  Explain the concept of “You’re It” in a game of tag in 250 words or less.
  3. LA 0.3.1.b Demonstrate appropriate speaking techniques (e.g., appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, clear pronunciation) for a variety of purposes and situations.  Complete the 1st 10 speeches in the Competent Communicator manual for Kindergarten Toastmasters.
  4. LA 0.3.1.c Utilize appropriate visual and/or digital tools to support verbal communication.  Kindergarten Power Power point?  
  5. LA 0.3.1.d Convey a personal perspective with clear reasons. Kindergarten Forensics?
  6. LA 0.3.1.e Ask pertinent questions to acquire or confirm information “Please Mrs. Miller, explain to the class using Power Point and 3 significant reasons why we cannot have 20 min of recess this afternoon.”
  7. Information Fluency: Students will evaluate, create, and communicate information in a variety of media and formats (textual, visual, and digital).  Kindergarten Power Point on their favorite pet:  its breed, its lineage, its preferred diet, its trick acquisition speed with 3 tables comparing it to pets of those in Macau, China.
  8. Digital Citizenship: Students will practice the norms of appropriate and responsible technology use.  Sign and date an ethics document specifying acceptable behavior on the school’s computers.

They need to know what begins with  M.  How to count to 10.  How to make friends. How to learn.  How to play kick ball and jump rope.

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