Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Editorials: Where I rant to the wall about politics. And sometimes the wall rants back.

The problem with a rigid curriculum

Jerry Stratton, April 14, 2005

Our schools are factories running assembly lines, and when one part sticks out, that’s a factory flaw. “Emily”, as reported in the New York Times and blogged about on the Brothers Judd, doesn’t talk in public; she only talks at home.

Mrs. Stanley recalled, ”We figured, O.K., maybe it’s not as bad as we think.” But two weeks into the year, Emily’s kindergarten teacher phoned. “She said, ‘Emily can‘t color or do anything; she just sits there and reads a book,’” Mrs. Stanley said. “She had no clue what to do. And neither did we.”

Because those coloring skills will come in so handy later in life, but books will just get her in trouble.

The real problem here is that Emily is too young to realize that kindergarten isn’t about learning. It’s about making kids do pointless things so that they get used to a real job at an early age. Reading books is a threat to that system.

Remember, this is not a problem of autism; Emily is perfectly able to talk, and does so in a normal manner at home. It is only in public with unfamiliar people that Emily shuts up. (Though one guesses that Emily does still read at home.) She is only “not learning” if learning means taking part in the make-work activities that passes for education in kindergarten and preschool.

And on a side note, the reporter clearly has no idea what it means to be shy:

One of the most puzzling aspects of selective mutism is the fact that children stay silent even when the consequences of their silence include shame, social ostracism or even punishment.

Nothing puzzling about that. What’s puzzling is why our educational system can’t handle children who prefer reading to coloring books and class sing-a-longs.

  1. <- Speech restrictions
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