Letters to the editor - 5/12/03

May 12, 2003

Kindergartners needn't be scholars

To the editor:

I've noticed a number of articles and letters recently praising kindergarten, especially all-day kindergarten.

They all focus on how much the children are learning, and how much they need to learn to get ready for first grade. It almost reads like a co-ordinated campaign to show us how important it is to get 5-year-olds into the classroom for as much time as possible.

But a sidebar to one article mentioned that kindergarten started in Germany, when children didn't start formal academics until age 7. Kindergarten was mostly play. And that's how it was when I went to kindergarten in the 1940s. We played games, listened to stories, sang songs, did art projects, and had snack. No academics whatsoever.

And guess what: Just as Germany didn't show signs of intellectual backwardness from starting kids on formal learning at age 7, my classmates and I didn't suffer from spending time on "The Farmer in the Dell" instead of flash cards at age 5. In fact, there were very few reading problems, and this was in a mostly-black Philadelphia public school.


It seems to me the more emphasis that is placed on early learning, the worse the learning problems become. I can't think of any other society in history that has believed 4-year-olds should know the alphabet.

On the contrary, people have instinctively understood that little children need lots of physical activity, adult attention, opportunity for unstructured play, and being told stories or read to in order to pass on our culture and develop language.

Instead, what many kids get nowadays is minimal physical activity, maximum TV time, little adult attention, little real play and an attempt to force learning in ways that are inappropriate for young children.

I have never seen any research that shows early formal learning is good for children. At most, a couple of studies have found some gains for deprived children.

Yet soon all-day academic kindergarten for all children will be taken for granted. This makes no sense at all, except to give parents free day care.

Parents should not be intimidated into thinking they're not qualified to give their children what they need. Any parents who don't want to put their 5-year-olds in a formal classroom can home-school them and let them have another year of being a child.

What's the rush to make them grow up so fast, and ruin their childhoods in the process? They're going to live to be 90 or more; they'll have plenty of time to be adults.

Judy Warner

Let France make first move

To the editor:

Tim Rowland should stick to his humorous writings! He obviously is either too young to remember the history of France's attitude of WWI and WWII, or he did not receive a proper history education.

Why does he suppose there has been such an outcry against France's position about our involvement in the Iraqi war? Particularly from veterans? What does he have to say to the familyies of the 140-plus killed in action regarding the "ease of conquest"? Can we forgive and forget? Yes!

But only after the French ask for forgiveness and show some true remorse. They should be ever grateful to the U.S. for coming to their rescue when they failed so miserably to even make a token attempt at fighting for themselves as did the British in the battle for Britain.

Friendship and understanding is supposed to be a two-way street. It's long over due for France's friendship and understanding to start flowing in our direction.

Jerome "Jerry" Gettler

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