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Kindergarten Follies

June 12, 2012 - John Stack
Did you know that kindergarten is even mandatory in New York State? In New York, the only requirement is that kids are in school at age 6. Only Syracuse (I believe) has a local law saying 5 years old. You might wonder, ‘What’s the big deal? Every school has kindergarten in New York.’ Well, everyone NOW. Some still have half-day kindergarten, although most are full day. But, in Southern New York, some school districts are contemplating eliminating kindergarten. I was shocked this past week when many Saranac Lake parents found out that dozens of their kids didn’t make it into the pre-k lottery! I am a big proponent of pre-K, kindergarten, school, and college for those that choose to go.

Eliminating kindergarten! Schools might as well contemplate removing Math from the curriculum in the name of ‘Tax Cap restraints’. I remember kindergarten back in 1972 with Mrs Bordwell. She was old when I had her – and my dad says she was old when she was HIS teacher! It was half day. I learned some numbers and letters and some socialization. There was no pre-k then. No day care centers set up like ones around here like Kids R Us and TenderCare. I only knew about 1 kid my age other than family or relatives, so kindergarten was a huge step for me and most people my age. Now, my 2 youngest came all the way up through Kids R Us. The kids are socialized and incredibly well prepared. Pre-K worked well for both of them. My youngest is 5, in kindergarten, and can read books. At that age I was lucky to identify letters and numbers. After going to a meeting at Bloomingdale school last year, I was blown away by what they expected to accomplish in a year of kindergarten. As it was, I was glad the kids had a year of Pre-k. They knew their numbers and letters and were excited to go to school (I was mortified at that age).

What does this mean today? The world is getting much smaller. Much more competitive. We as Americans don’t actually have some type of special genetic disposition to be the best in the world, no more than kings of yore had no valid right to lead except their bloodlines. The Chinese basically have one child per family. And the good jobs are scarce there. Parents recognize their kids NEED to stand out from the crowd in order to get into college, and from there to the good jobs. They spend tremendous time on their kids education. We take it for granted our kids will go to college if they so choose, if not Harvard, SUNY Potsdam or Hudson Valley. If they do OK, they will get good jobs. But we are now competing with a couple billion educated Chinese, Japanese and Indians.

I have a cartoon at work. It shows an Asian kid carrying a backpack of books and he’s saying ‘I have to go home to study my Chemistry and Calculus’ and the American kid, on a skateboard with his hat backwards says ‘I’ll pray for ya’. That was over 10 years ago, and it’s significantly truer today. Education is being attacked as never before. With a significant ‘anti-science’ belief system (evolution is a myth, Dinosaurs and humans lived together) as well as what I believe to be one of the most out of touch phrases heard on the campaign trail, courtesy of Mr Mitt Romney ‘We don’t need more cops, firefighters or teachers’. I could go on about the folly of choosing to be less safe from criminals, or being happy the fire truck is going to be 5 minutes later to my house fire, but that is another arena. We need FEWER teachers?? Really? We may argue about mandates, salaries, contracts, how to pay for school, but to actually say we need fewer teachers is absurd. Why can’t Jonny read? Why does the US finish out of the top half of 41 industrialized countries in most educational metrics? (and Canada is near the top with basically the same economic system and cultural makeup) There is no magic bullet. And ‘throwing money at the problem’ may be wasteful, but starving the system of money will surely lead to ruin.


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