Monday, March 9, 2015

How to fix education: The lies they told me about T-Ball.

So, my son played t-ball this past summer. Well, let me say they called it t-ball. My understanding of t-ball is that it, indeed, uses a "tee" as indicated in its name. You would have understood my surprise when we came to the first "practice" (I use the quotes not as a slight to the coaches, but we all know what 5 and 6 year olds look like when "practicing" the t-ball.) and there was no tee. I am looking for the tee. It is no where. The coach then begins to pitch the ball underhand to the 5 and six year olds.

Let me paint a picture for you: These children are little. They have cartoonishly large batting helmets atop their head, some have batting gloves that were clearly not designed for people this size, and they were lugging around bats that seemed to be the equivalent of half their body weight. Hitting a beach ball in flight would be a miracle.

Okay, so, my son gets up to bat and the coach pitches the ball. He does not hit it. The coach pitches again. He does not hit the ball. The coach pitches again. No hitting going on here. So, apparently, they found the tee, and now that he has failed to make contact with the ball my son is being shamed into using it. What happens? He hits the ball. Amazing.

This is happening all over. There are youth wrestling programs that start at age 5. In some towns, there are tackle football programs that start in 2nd grade. Kids can participate in basketball leagues far younger than they have the skills or body mass to get the ball into the hoop. It wasn't this way when I was young.

Football started in middle school. Little League? 5th grade. But now we have decided we need to have younger and younger children learn tasks that have historically been saved for students who, I don't know, are old enough to achieve them! We keep shoving down skills to where we have 5 year olds running a nickel defense. Why do we do this?

We see it in education, too. I remember when Kindergarten had play time and naps. That doesn't happen much anymore. I was talking to my principal and the new FAST test came up.  Now, if you know nothing but the title of the test, you would basically know everything you need to know. FAST is a reading test we are starting to use this year in Iowa. To be successful our students, starting in pre-kindergarten, need to be able to read fast. Maybe I should have typed that last sentence like this: To be successful our students, starting in pre-kindergarten, need to be able to read FAST.

So, even kids who are not in kindergarten and placed in pre-kindergarten because it is a better educational situation will have to take this reading test. Roll that around in your head for a second. We are now administering a test to students we already know aren't ready for kindergarten. The leading cause for not being able to read is not being in school long enough to learn how!!

So, how do we fix education? My first grader doesn't need to be able to do calculus. We need to think about the age-appropriateness of skill acquisition, and then change our actions. Like now.

Your thoughts are welcomed and encouraged,

Dane Barner

5 comments:

  1. My son was dismayed to learn that when he started at age 9 he was years behind other kids in Little League baseball, some of whom were already engaged in private coaching... :(

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