Education reform is destroying childhood as we know it

Thursday, May 1, 2014

When I reflect on my childhood nothing but fond memories come to mind. Growing up in a rural part of western New Jersey sure had its benefits in the 1980s. Upon returning home from White Township Consolidated School (K-8) my brothers and I would complete our assigned homework in less than an hour, which was reasonable in my opinion. More often than not, as soon as we finished we whisked out the door of our house to get outside regardless of the weather. The next couple of hours before and after dinner were then spent playing with friends outdoors, exploring, riding bikes, fishing, shooting hoops, or hiking. If by some chance the weather was really bad we would then play with toys, tinker with Legos, or challenge each other to the coolest games of our young generation on the Atari and later Nintendo. For good measure, some time was also spent on the Commodore 64 and Apple computers.

The childhood years were some of the best of my life -- as they should have been. There was enough time dedicated to learning during my elementary years, but also ample time for play, exploration, competition, and leisure. These experiences definitely helped mold me into the adult I have become today. School complimented my activities at home as education was structured in a way that focused on experiential learning, play, performance, and building self-esteem. I learned and acquired an array of skills that prepared me not only for college and careers, but also life. I can't even begin to imagine what my life would have been then or become today if these experiences had been ripped from me. Unfortunately this has now become the reality for our youngest students in 2014 and the near future in the name of education reform.

Education reform is destroying childhood as we know it at both home and school. As a parent of two elementary students (first and third grade) in Staten Island, NY, I witness daily the negative impacts that Common Core and standardized testing, under the guise of education reform, are having on them. They come home each day and spend hours on homework that makes little sense to them and absolutely no sense in some cases, especially in math. Their love for learning is squashed as more of an emphasis has been placed on instructional scripts aligned to the Common Core, test prep, and homework designed to make them relive the torture they just went through in school. I do not fault the school, principal, or teachers for the wretched environment that my kids are exposed to each day, but rather the reformers who are making them hate school with a passion. Shouldn't we be instilling a passion for learning in each and every child?

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