September 5, 2015


June has written another important piece about testing in Kindergarten.  Although not specifically written for grandparents, this is an article we feel you can share and discuss with your family.

I couldn’t believe the headline in the LA Times that told me that there was a movement afoot that would test children to see if they were ready for kindergarten.  I have always assumed that kindergartens should be ready for children; no matter where they live, no matter if they come from split families; no matter if English is not their first language; no matter if they are rich or poor; no matter what color they are.  I know, I know, this is the digital age and math, science and reading and writing are essential to get along in the world.  But brain research tells us that children’s learning is unique and each will advance in her/his own pace and time.  Pushing “early learning” is not the way to go according to the experts I know and respect. 

It is also important and vital for children to have the opportunity to learn to get along and respect others, to be able to empathize with others and have a chance to play and experiment with different materials and have books read to them. Is starting earlier and earlier to teach letters and numbers, reading and writing the way to a better, more kind and advanced world?  Not for me! 

I observed in a preschool class for special needs children (meaning the kids couldn’t sit still for the drills) for one of my CASA boys who was 4 years old. The room consisted of four tables with enough chairs for 10 children (all boys).  The front of the classroom had charts with all of the letters of the alphabet and numbers from one to twenty.  There were no art or play materials.  When the boys had recess the teacher and assistant teacher watched the children scramble up and down the lone jungle gym in the yard, and admonished the boys to take turns and not bump into each other.

For the two hours I observed in the classroom, there were two drill exercises on letters and numbers; for the rest of the time the boys were expected to sit at the tables with work books to complete. The teachers were not happy with the “curriculum”, but they both said that this was the protocol and they were not to deviate from it.

Now, if this is what is meant by getting children ready for kindergarten, I can only imagine what kindergarten is like.  I am told that there is no more painting, clay or play dough in the new ,”modern” kindergartens.  There is no room for imaginative play, for music and singing. Books are for the adults to read, but no libraries where children can explore on their own.  And where are the blocks?  And most importantly where is the opportunity to develop understanding of others, sympathy and empathy?

I wonder what kind of kindergarten experience Arne Duncan, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Eli Broad had since they are big advocates for the “early learning” curriculum that I call “drill and kill”? Can you flunk kindergarten?

Below is the best description of what kindergarten should be, in my opinion, based on my many years of working with young children and their families who have experienced acceptance, respect and love.

All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten
by Robert Fulghum
- an excerpt from the book, All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten
"All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten. ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate-school mountain, but there in the sand-pile at Sunday School. These are the things I learned:

  • Share everything.
  • Play fair.
  • Don't hit people.
  • Put things back where you found them.
  • Clean up your own mess.
  • Don't take things that aren't yours. 
  • Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody.
  • Wash your hands before you eat.
  • Flush.
  • Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
  • Live a balanced life - learn some and think some
  • and draw and paint and sing and dance and play
  • and work every day some.
  • Take a nap every afternoon.
  • When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic,
  • hold hands, and stick together.
  • Be aware of wonder.
  • Remember the little seed in the styrofoam cup:
  • The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody
  • really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
  • Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even
  • the little seed in the Styrofoam cup - they all die.
  • So do we.
  • And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned - the biggest word of all - LOOK. 

Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation. Ecology and politics and equality and sane living.

Take any of those items and extrapolate it into sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your
family life or your work or your government or your world and it holds true and clear and firm. Think what a better world it would be if all - the whole world - had cookies and milk about three o'clock every afternoon and then lay down with our blankies for a nap. Or if all governments had a basic policy to always put thing back where they found them and to clean up their own mess.

And it is still true, no matter how old you are - when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together."
© Robert Fulghum, 1990.
Found in Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten, Villard Books:
New York, 1990, page 6-7.