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The Importance of Being Little

What Preschoolers Really Need From Grown-Ups

By Erika Christakis
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  • Contains 7 key ideas
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The Importance of Being Little by Erika Christakis

The Importance of Being LIttle (2016) is all about the powerful and curious minds of children, and the way our current preschool educational standards of testing and standardized worksheets limit their natural skills. These blinks explain why a focus on the personal development of each child is a much better strategy.

Key idea 1 of 7

Modern preschools aren’t suited for the natural skills and curiosity of children.

If you could walk through the door of a preschool 50 years ago, you’d probably see kids having fun and playing around. But today, you’d be greeted with young children, rigorously studying math and grammar.

So, what has changed?

Simply put, the style of teaching has shifted dramatically. These days, preschools are all about strict uniformity at the expense of real learning. In fact, preschools in the United States operate according to the Common Core State Standards, or CCSS, a state-mandated set of goals for all subjects.

For instance, the CCSS says that kindergarteners should be able to “demonstrate command of conventions of standard English grammar.” In other words, all preschoolers have to work toward this goal, instead of focusing on the actual process of learning.

The problem is that this one-size-fits-all approach to education means that kids don’t receive enough attention for their individual needs and capabilities. After all, education that operates according to such strict guidelines denies students the opportunity to learn on their own terms, and with the help of a teacher who can recognize their individual talents and learning styles. It also creates clear distinctions between who does well and who doesn’t.

But if it works so poorly, why is this system still in place?

The strict curriculum that shapes American preschools is, in fact, the result of social and political changes. For instance, before the 1980s, preschool was relatively uncommon; but as women began entering the workforce in greater numbers, preschools rose in popularity. Initially, they functioned as a form of daycare rather than the rigorous learning environment that characterizes them today.

However, as inequality spiked over the ensuing 30 years, so did the gap in educational achievement between the rich and poor. The result was the No Child Left Behind legislation of the early 2000s.

This law was an attempt to close the achievement gap in society by standardizing education. To do so, it implemented a strict, universal curriculum designed to arm every preschooler with the same skills.

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