As of Tuesday, February 25, 2014
In response to the article “Schools Count on Students” (Feb. 19): Is absenteeism from kindergarten the real problem? It is concerning that we are more “worried” about kids missing school vs. missing their childhood. Are we worried that they may perform poorly on the next state exam and truly “fall behind”? Under whose criteria is “behind”?
What is this imaginary benchmark we have created that every child must live up to at a specific age and grade and if they don’t, the prospect of success is dismal?
It is discouraging that front page news is focusing on these “problem” absences while we fail to look at the total and utter disregard for healthy child development. We are dismissing the essential need for young children to have the majority of their day be creative play, which leads to healthy social and emotional growth versus learning to sit still and listen.
Opportunities for problem solving, discovery, connection and compassion happen naturally if you allow young children the freedom to express themselves and to explore and engage with their environment.
As adults, providing the scaffolding and rhythm for questions to arise is important, but instead we are telling them what and how they should be learning through continuous structured lessons, with hours of sitting.
We now have an epidemic of children on Ritalin and anti-anxiety medication at a younger and younger age. They are responding to a stressful environment that has failed to keep movement, creativity and individuality in the learning process. It is a crisis and a shame that so many children are now on medication in order to cope.
More and more children don’t know how to solve problems creatively. They are uncomfortable and “bored” with unstructured time and many are burning out earlier and earlier and becoming resistant to going to school.
We are inhibiting childhood from unfolding and progressing in a manner that will lead these little people to become self-actualized human beings. We are being told to worry that our kindergartner will “fall behind” in their work if they spend too much time in life outside of school.
There is a culture of fear being created that suggests children will not be able to compete for the best schools and jobs if they don’t keep up. Last I checked stress was the leading cause of health issues, including depression. Perhaps this is the reason some parents are taking their children out of school?
If you haven’t read it in a while, pick up “Hope for the Flowers” by Trina Paulas and see if it might ring a bell. Are we pushing our children to compete to get to the top of the pole, for them only to discover there is nothing really there once they arrive?
In the meantime, childhood is not refundable. So, I personally hope as many children as possible get to enjoy the innocence of play, laughter, joy, discovery, skinned knees, and love which will then create the skills needed to carry them through a happy, compassionate and meaningful life.
Carrie Fuentes lives in Hood River.