Turning kids into test-taking machines
I know that I am like a broken record when it comes to education. I have a strong belief of how children should be raised, which is to allow them to enjoy as much a carefree and happy childhood as possible. I have seen parents enrolling their kids in Kumon, a cram school in the United States originated from Japan where overeager parents and cram school teachers promote mind-numbing drill-and-kill students, disregarding the importance of the quality of student learning. When it comes to the happiness of kids, that kind of cramming is negatively correlated.
I don’t believe that cramming is effective. Cramming to train your kids to be talented and to qualify as gifted is not only a delusion but also a distortion to the value of education. Intelligence is not something that can be crammed. What’s the point of training your kids to become something when they are not? Can you envision a successful future for them? I don’t think so. Even intelligence does not always guarantee future success. It is the ability to communicate and to effectively convey your ideas. It is the ability to lead and be able to socialize and work with others. That’s why we can’t emphasize too much the importance of emotional intelligence and competence when determining professional success.
So, what’s the point of cramming your kids, sacrificing all their play time to become bored test-taking robots? What’s the point of putting so much pressure on them trying to label them as something they aren’t? Who are we to deprive their only childhood! I have seen a case of a child, who goes to Kumon, enrolling into kindergarten at an age one year earlier than the age that is set forth. When he completed 2nd grade, he did not move onto 3rd grade. He was instead retained in the same grade. So how did all this cramming to get him ahead help him? I don’t think that the overall outcome is positive. I can see this outcome hurting his self-esteem dramatically. His elder brother was in the gifted program. However, the Kumon cramming did not last long to keep him in the program. You can probably imagine the impact to the kids and their family.
I would like to point out that whether our kids are gifted or not, they will always get the opportunity to enjoy attending the activities they desire, such as biking, snowboarding, science experiment, playing violin or building Lego pieces.
My husband thought that if our kids can digest what’s taught at school during school hours, they should be free to decide how they want to spend their time after school. This is more of my husband’s philosophy than mine, which I go along with a grain of salt. So, other than the 20-minute reading and the occasional 5-minute math homework, my son has dedicated all his afterschool hours in playing Wii when he doesn’t have Chinese class (two hours a week) and violin lesson (45 minutes a week). Is it good or bad? I don’t really know. I do think that he spends too much time playing online games.
My son is not a typical gifted/talented student as he has had language development issue in the past and is still trying whatever he can to minimize interaction with others that requires communication. He is gifted in math and science. So, I am glad that the school encourages kids to read and has mandated a minimum of 20 minutes of reading per day. By the way, he has just finished reading “The Son of Neptune (Heroes of Olympus Series # 2)”. However, he is not happy that he has to wait until this fall for the release of “The Mark of Athena”. He has now moved onto reading “Belly Up”, “James and the Giant Peach” and “The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events #1)”. The lexile level of the books he read is usually between 650 and 1000. You can probably tell by now that he likes to read several books at one time. I asked if he wanted to read “The Golden Compass” since he enjoyed watching the movie so much but he showed no interest in reading the book. In the meantime, while he is waiting for the release, I bought several of the “Who Was” biography series books (Who was Albert Einstein? Who was Thomas Alva Edison? Who was Ben Franklin? Who was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart? Who was King Tut? Who was George Washington?) for my son’s light reading. I thought that he might be interested. I am glad that he did. You might ask why not Martin Luther King Jr. or Abraham Lincoln or Thomas Jefferson. I want to wait for a little while when he is matured enough to understand what and why they were fighting for before I introduce the books to him. He is only nine years old.
If you have kids at his age, they might be interested in reading what he has read or is reading. If I have time, I will try to list the books he read and provide some description.
Written by Elisa English
On March 19, 2012