I sat across from my son’s first grade teacher as she said with a straight face, “If he is going to be college ready, these are some of the things he needs to work on.” My eyes widened with unbelief as to what I just heard and I uttered a two word question with a turned-up lip, “college ready?” Stepping back from what she is supposed to say as she read my reaction, she whispered, “I know…right? They actually want us to use those words now… college ready… for first grade. They’re even using it in kindergarten now.”
My eyes looked up into the corner of my mind as I wondered, “Was Einstein college ready in Kindergarten, or JFK, MLK, Louis Pasteur, Marie Curie, Darwin, Tesla, Stephen Hawking, or Edison?” When did we start caring so much about getting our children ready at such an early age? When did we stop letting our children experience play and imagination and focus on intellect alone? In an article in the Educational Life section of the New York Times titled, ‘Already Bound for College,’ Dr. Marcy Guddemi, executive director of the Gesell Institute of Child Development says in regards to this new educational way of thinking, “We are robbing children of childhood by talking about college and career so early in life.”
And I couldn’t agree more. In a post I wrote last year called, ‘Public School Frustration,’ I wrote, “Everyone is under too much pressure, including our children. The joy of learning has been replaced by the fear of failing – failing a standardized test. The first two-thirds of the year is dictated by the stress of the upcoming tests, and the last one-third is spent dreading the test results. It wasn’t always like this.”
This idea of being college ready was one of the reasons we decided to home school. It wasn’t the only reason, but it was a factor. Imaginations need time to be unleashed and I didn’t feel like my children were getting that opportunity. I would argue that imagination is just as important as education. Without an imagination, I wonder if world altering dreams would have come true. There are times when education and imagination feed off of one another. Without imagination, would Edison have thought to light up the world? Without imagination would Dr. Jonas Salk have believed he could create a cure for Polio? Without imagination, I am sure Harper Lee, Proust, Tolstoy, and Shakespeare would not have put their creations on paper. The list goes on and on. Intellect needs imagination, but if imagination isn’t strengthened and encouraged, what will we have to shoot for?
Great minds need imagination. Great minds need inspiration. And Great minds need rest. We are taking that away from our children.
My kids are going to have plenty of time to think about their future. Right now, I want them to believe that their future is whatever they want it to be. Whatever they make it to be. The world’s reality will come crashing down on them soon enough without having to view one test score after another. And quite frankly, I am sick and tired of hearing about kids needing to be “college ready.” No more. Parents, we must not buy into this ridiculous notion that we have to worry about where our kindergartner or first grader will go to college. Because parents, seriously, are we really caring about what our kids want or do we care more about how what they do or what they choose will make us look?
I don’t care where my kids go to college. In fact, maybe my kids won’t even go to college. We are putting too much stock in how much people make and what society views as being successful and pushing our children into accepting these notions. We are not focusing enough on happiness and joy.
Time to let kids be kids once again, because soon, they won’t be.
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