Jerusha Connor: Our Daughter’s Terrible First Day in Kindergarten

I find it harder and harder to repeat myself when I bump into tales like this.

I sort of cringe myself into almost-anger because what we all see before us is so macabre and so twisted.

In this case, which is hardly unique, a child’s first several moments in school … her first actual memories perhaps! … are of evaluations, testing, and assessments. This sounds awfully army-isn to me … and not very school-isn at all.

But the essential question … the one that should be asked first … is very simple: Who thinks this is a good idea? Who thinks 60 month-old children should be queued up like draft inductees and then sized up like petite soldiers on their way to the driving ground of the classroom?

Will these people step forward and explain themselves to all of us who seem to think that such stuff is abusive and asinine and beyond reasonable?

Where are they? I seldom hear their voices. And if I do, I rush to their credentials, and guess what? I am almost always presented with the same disturbing information … that these new Know-It-Alls have zero classroom experience beyond visitor status.

But somehow, some way … through this warped reform … these classroom allergic gurus hold sway over a generation of new learners … that would be YOUR children … proposing curriculum alterations and procedures that every classroom teacher knows to be worthless, and even damaging.

And still it goes on and on and on. In fact, it gets worse … because these new Socrates of education are ever more emboldened, and to cement their early assertions they rummage their own empty heads for more educational absurdity which spews out in a volcanic speed. And there are always some political schlubs right there to crown these dopes as the new geniuses of education … and then give them warping power beyond belief.

Can you see why I cringe? Why so many of you cringe? Here you are … in the moment of one of life’s great moments … your child’s first day of school. The camera is charged, they clothes are extra-neat, the essential paraphernalia is stylishly arrayed from lunch box to pencil case … and you now realize you are escorting your youngster … that child you love more than life … to boot camp. So, we all cringe some more. And lots of you probably cry, too.

I would cry. A lot. And I am not given to that sort of soft stuff. But I know how my children were once stitched to my heart and my soul … and it doesn’t take great effort to recapture that absolute love.

All cringing aside … when do we stop begging and imploring educational officials and politicians to treat our children like … like children? When do they hear us that we’re not so goddamned consumed with data and test scores and rankings and such? That we’re more concerned with smiles and joy and refrigerator art? When does that happen? When do we get our balance back? And when does childhood make a comeback.

I can’t believe I typed that last sentence. I’m cringing again.

Denis Ian

Diane Ravitch's blog

Jerusha Connor, a professor of education at Villanova University, was shocked to see what happened to her daughter on her first day of kindergarten: Most of the few hours of school were spent on assessment by five different teachers.

She writes:

For anyone who doubts that education in the U.S. has become overrun by testing, consider this. My daughter’s first day of kindergarten — her very first introduction to elementary school — consisted almost entirely of assessment. She was due at school at 9:30, and I picked her up at 11:45. In between, she was assessed by five different teachers, each a stranger, asking her to perform some task such as cutting, coloring in the lines, reciting her address and phone number, identifying letters and their sounds, and counting. She then had to wait two days, while all the other incoming kindergartners were assessed, to learn of her teacher…

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