The President, in his speech to congress, once again broached the idea of pre-school for all children. Briefly stated, the costs would be borne by the federal and state governments, perhaps on a sliding scale, maybe on a needs basis. Details will have to be worked out. The devil is always in the details.
As has been mentioned here, more than once, the idea isn’t necessarily a bad one. For quite a few families and children it could be a very good move. For others, it simply won’t be, as they are either in some sort of pre-school, or the home environment is so good that pre-school isn’t needed. Yes, that is entirely true.
There are families, not defined by income at all, or socio-economic status, who provide all the loving care and exploration that small children need. Other families just aren’t in a position to do so.
Here’s the caution, again. First, “quality” is the linch pin for the entire effort. Cruddy quality does an immense amount of harm in a pre-school setting. Beyond that is the not mentioned but waiting in the wings issue of “testing”.
The states and the federal governments simply cannot fund or semi-fund anything without sooner or later requiring “testing” or “assessment”. That’s fairly reasonable in most cases. However, very young children do not need adults messing about with too many adult centered rules aimed at them.
The very young learn by experimenting, all day long. Their experiences equal very real learning. They all learn at a different rate from each other, and in different ways. There is no one path that defines what they do, nor should there be an attempt at establishing one.
Their days should be as free of regimen and as full of exploration as possible. For the very young, sitting quietly is not only a weird expectation, but sitting quietly to listen to an adult drill phonemes into them at pre-school is patently ridiculous and harmful.
It seems, based on the track record of everything that has the word “school” in it, especially these days, that “standards”, “common core”, and “assessments” are the theme of the day.
The issue as it pertains to pre-school is the same as it pertains to what has morphed into pre-Kindergarten: If there are standards, then standards must be met, and if they are to be met, there has to be some kind of test or assessment, which means, by simple extension, that a child can fail to meet the standards as evidenced by the test or assessment ( a bit of a run on sentence, but there you have it). Then what? The child has failed childhood?
Childhood is a very special place. It’s best left alone by adults, especially the ones who have no memory of it.
Be careful what you wish for. As always, assume nothing, verify everything.