Free preschool

Turnover in the last state election, combined with the recession, means our legislature is struggling with some tough financing decisions lately. One big item on the chopping block is free preschool for 4-year-olds.

I can see why people think that is a good thing, and some of my Facebook friends have posted about how they find it so incredibly important that they can send their kids to these programs.

No matter what you think about the value of early childhood education though, what had me immediately scratching my head was the perceived list of benefits gained from the program to date.

The spokesperson for the faction fighting to save free preschool lauded the program for making marked improvement in kids’ readiness for Kindergarten. In her speech, examples given included that the children showed measurable improvement in the areas of listening to authority, lining up and doing what they were told.

Thing is, I don’t see how these are truly related to than the actual academic progress of a student!  Do these skills really give them a leg up when they learn to read or add numbers? Doubtful. Does it speak to classroom control and make things easier for the Kindergarten teacher and get students ready to spend their whole days doing something other than playing? Yes, absolutely.

And while I’m sure those things play a roll in how effective the learning environment is, and how likely a student is to succeed in that environment, it also speaks to a much deeper issue with our education system. The purpose of school these days seems not really to be for kids to learn, as much as it is to train them to function in our bureaucratic system!  It’s more important for them to fall into line than it is to think critically or acquire knowledge.

We tried our lad in preschool last year, and it didn’t work out well. We pulled him out with few regrets. And now I’m actually glad things turned out this way. Due to some of our other life plans, we’re most likely going to be homeschooling. Not sure how this will play out yet, but I’ve been doing a lot of reading and have some ideas. What exactly will his education look like? Not sure, but I know some things that it will not encompass.

Are we worried he won’t learn the aforementioned critical life skills? Well, he can learn to stand in a queue at the grocery store; to listen to non-parental authority at his swimming class; to socialize with others (of a much more diverse age group!) at the library.  Nope. not worried.