Welcome to Laurie Goodman's blog. I use this space to share news and opinions about education and schools in Ridgewood, the state of New Jersey and the nation, in addition to other issues I'm personally interested in. I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, questions or opinions, too, by posting comments on any blog entry. Please observe basic courtesy -- keep your comments focused on issues, no personal attacks or bullying, please. Contact me directly at: lauriegood@mac.com

Monday, May 16, 2011

Toddlers on the fast track to academic stress (um, success).

Did you see the story in Friday’s NY Times about kids as young as 2 years old being tutored in writing, reading and numbers? This is the latest example of parents overreacting and ramping up the pressure on kids to perform, out of fear of being left behind or not getting into Brown or losing a future job to China or some other such fear.

In the classic “don’t confuse me with the facts” American way, the article says, “Research suggests that there is little benefit from this kind of tutoring; that young children learn just as much about math, if not more, fitting mixing bowls together on the kitchen floor.” One mother talks about the result she likes best in her 3- and 5-year olds: “These results translated into a self-esteem boost that I didn’t anticipate…They’ve gotten that there’s a thrill in achieving something.” You need to pay $200 a session to have someone else give your kids a self-esteem boost via worksheet drills? Even better, she adds, “I treat them with more respect now, because I see what they’re capable of intellectually.” So….previously you didn’t respect your children and their ability to learn? Honestly, statements like that make me queasy.

The article goes on to talk about parents who are ambivalent, who say things like, “This isn’t right, 3-year-olds should be playing in the sandbox and putting together mixing bowls,’ but then they’re thinking that maybe if the kid next door is doing it, it’ll be time to go to Harvard and my child won’t have the same advantage.” So they go ahead and sign their kid up because they don’t want to be the ones who step off the merry-go-round.

When people talk about tutoring in Ridgewood, I wonder how much of it is for true help, and how much of it is the fear of falling behind? The fear of not being an achiever? Sort of “preventative tutoring.” A child might be doing just fine, getting As and Bs (or even Bs and Cs), but why not get a tutor and turn those Bs into As, or Cs into Bs? I suspect this happens a lot here. It’s the same thinking that drives the big business of pitching coaches and goalie coaches and one-on-one training for young athletes.

Click here for the full story in the NY Times.

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