“You will never accomplish your design of forming sensible people, unless you begin by making playful children.”
Beneath the headlines, there are danger signs that lie ahead as a result of the current calls to reform education. Some economists, business leaders, and politicians use the metrics of ranking with accompanying big data reports to justify calls to dismantle public education, and create a competitive platform that relies heavily on standardized testing. They tell a false narrative accepted by too many in the mainstream media elite. However, the true cost of this so-called reform of educational systems as we know it, is hard to calculate.
Children today experience a changed learning landscape. It is a false notion that college and career readiness can be determined by a measurable set of data points for 8,9, and 10 year olds. The fixation on testing has caused art, music, and recess to take a far back seat, creating a dangerous imbalance in the healthy formation of young minds and bodies.
The curiosity and creativity of a child is at stake. They should be full of wonder. They should be given the proper time and space to venture into the world of others as they read for pleasure, dabble in watercolors that know no bounds, or expend the boundless energy of a little boy or girl on the playground without the fear of being cut short in the name of preparing for a high stakes test. The experiences that children should be engaged in are being sacrificed at an alarming rate.
These experiences nurture the soul of a child and are not merely a romanticized view of the softer side of human development. Nor must it be devoid of intellectually rich and vigorous cognitive growth. The importance of play continues to garner a body of research that sees such activity as integral to the well-being of children and adults alike. Education that limits these activities, or tries to score them, fails to fully understand how educational systems the world over flourish and thrive.
The idea that we must designate scores to a narrow band of testable content areas (math and English Language skills) as future predictors of global competitiveness is about as sensible as mining for fool’s gold in the desert. The future of our nation more likely hinges on educating a generation of well-nourished children, who arrive at school excited by the prospect of being socially and emotionally engaged in learning that is joyous. School must promote the use of time that is filled as much with singing, dancing, drawing and running as it is with experimenting in science or practicing essential skills in reading, writing, and math.
I call upon our elected leaders and policymakers to fashion a more balanced and sensible path forward. The current plan that looks at one side of the educational ledger is as misguided as it is destined to produce a generation of children who fail to fully experience childhood to the detriment of our civil well being in the years ahead.