Another school year, another season of back-to-school commercial LIES. That's right, lies. I just read a post in The Atlantic about how all those happy school-time commercials showing rosy-cheeked children frolicking around expansive schoolyards are just selling us a dream that doesn't exist for our kids. Nope, in reality we're sending our kids off to the Gulag for endless indoor test prep.
Forget jumping rope: Now it's all about jumping through hoops. Picture lines of children burdened by 300-pound backpacks singing "We Don't Need No Education," trudging into the school building never to see daylight again, their hopeful little brains squashed by the imagination-crushing demands of NCLB.
Oh my Geometry, is it really that bad?!?
I don't know! You tell me. A few years ago when my son was in Pre-K at our local elementary school, this was exactly what I feared. The principal is a very ambitious, determined administrator with a clear vision: High test scores. Every time I asked about more "progressive" programs and stuff like phys ed and recess, I'd get the same answer. None of that hippie stuff, we're here to serve The Tests. (Okay, gym class once a week but that's it.)
Well screw that. My vision was completely different, so now we haul our son off to a school far outside our neighborhood where the learning is hands-on and the kids are forced outdoors to run around and PLAY like the children that they are every single day (unless it's pouring rain or dangerously cold). And then they get a decent amount of time to eat their lunches (sugary foods aren't allowed). So their brains get a rest and their bodies are nourished enough to support an afternoon of rigorous thought.
Meanwhile, we heard from our friends who stayed at the Testing School that kids went hungry because lunch lasts 10 seconds, felt pent up, and generally had that rat race feeling that's so NOT conducive to learning. I mean, even if you love the testing you have to admit, taking a few mental breaks during the day is going to help kids focus and perform better in the long run. And no, moving from classroom to classroom and spending the first 15 minutes of each period yelling at everyone to shut up doesn't count.
I think deep down a lot of parents suspect the heavy emphasis on testing and endless stupid worksheets aren't doing squat for preparing our kids to become future leaders and innovators. Maybe we're too busy to demand better, or we're not sure what exactly better even looks like, or we don't feel like we have the authority to challenge teachers and principals. But I think, as counter-intuitive as it sounds, demanding a little more recess time is a good place to start.
What would you change about your school if you could?
Image via Wootang01/Flickr