As an elementary school teacher, I'm at an utter loss for words here. For if the letter included below is indeed authentic (and all signs point to such being the case), we have a jaw-dropping example of how warped educational priorities in primary schools are becoming.
Harley Avenue Primary School, in Suffolk County, New York, is a K-2 primary school. Apparently, the kindergarten puts on an annual performance every year. However, this year that performance is being cancelled to, as the letter points out, focus on academic activities which will prepare students for college and careers.
Dear Kindergarten parents and guardians:Just as Corey Robin notes in his own commentary, I have no idea what precipitated this decision – what testing pressures or outside influences demanded that a performance be cancelled, to be replaced with more classroom instruction.
We hope this letter serves to help you better understand how the demands of the 21st century are changing schools and, more specifically, to clarify misconceptions about the Kindergarten show. It is most important to keep in mind that this issue is not unique to Elwood. Although the movement toward more rigorous learning standards has been in the national news for more than a decade, the changing face of education is beginning to feel unsettling for some people. What and how we teach is changing to meet the demands of a changing world.
The reason for eliminating the Kindergarten show is simple. We are responsible for preparing children for college and career with valuable lifelong skills and know that we can best do that by having them become strong readers, writers, coworkers, and problem solvers. Please do not fault us for making professional decisions that we know will never be able to please everyone. But know that we are making these decisions with the interests of all children in mind.
However, what I do know is this:
- It's utterly insane to invoke "college and career" considerations for freaking kindergarteners. These are five-year-old children. Have these people lost their minds? Teaching them valuable skills so that they can be good "coworkers" at some desk or cubicle in twenty years?
- In what educational world do teachers and administrators not recognize the, ehem, academic value of dramatic performances or shows? Reading? Check. Writing? Check. Working with others? Check.
Again, as a teacher who understands the many pressures placed upon administrators and my colleagues, I get that difficult and, sometimes, stupid decisions must be made to satisfy one standard or another.
But this? This is pure madness.
David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, just out from Oneworld Publications.
It appears a frustrated community member has started a petition, which you can sign here.
Here is the text of that petition, which sheds even more light into how absurd this decision is. The kindergarten in question is not even a full-day program:My name is Ninette Solis. I have started this petition because I am upset that a school tradition and milestone is being taken away from the kindergarteners of Harley Elementary. The kindergarten “show”, where the children and families come together to celebrate a year of growth and success, has been canceled. As detailed in a letter dated April 24, 2014, "The reason for eliminating the Kindergarten show is simple. We are responsible for preparing children for college and career with valuable lifelong skills and know that we can best do that by having them become strong reader, writers, coworkers and problem solvers." These are 5-year-old children! This is outrageous! Canceling the show makes no sense at all. Please understand that Harley Elementary is one of a handful of schools in Suffolk and Nassau County which does not offer full day kindergarten. Our children attend school each day for a total of two and a half hours. If the district’s goal is to begin to develop “college and career ready” 5 year olds, they should have had full day kindergarten classes. As a concerned teacher noted "College and career readiness must include knowing how to appreciate having some fun. Any career without fun isn't worth having." Furthermore, the kindergarten show is a positive experience and beneficial to the children’s development. The children perform in front of an audience. This helps them build confidence in themselves. The show also helps develop public speaking skills while allowing the children celebrate a big accomplishment. The kindergarteners of Harley Elementary deserve better. Please sign this petition to reinstate the kindergarten show and please share with everyone you know.