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We live in a time that reeks with what the late child psychiatrist Elisabeth Young-Bruehl called “Childism: Prejudice Against Young Children.” In a book with that title, she identified NCLB high stakes testing as an example of “Childism.”
Thomas Scarice, Superintendent of Schools in Madison, Connecticut, makes a plea to restore innocence to children.
“Over the past decade, schools have deteriorated into data factories, reducing children to mere numbers, with a perverted ranking and sorting of winners and losers in high stakes testing schemes. And now, a new test promising to revolutionize education will produce yet more meaningless data for adults starving to exploit children for self-gain, selfish career aspirations, blind ideological ploys, or for the purposes of establishing high property values on the backs of children, all the while sorting out which 8 year olds are on track to be “college and career ready”.
“Even at the classroom level, children suffer from the unintended consequences of well-meaning adults unaware of the ways that children naturally develop and grow. Frivolous homework policies invade private family time and rob children of necessary unstructured time to develop executive functioning.
“Play, the natural way children learn, is reduced to filler, barely acknowledged for the critical role it fulfills in child development. No one questions why the caged bird flies as soon as the cage door opens, nor should they question why children naturally play at a moment’s notice.
“Even perhaps the most fundamental function of schools, the teaching of reading, has succumbed to the ignorance of this era. New standards and tests with a myopic focus on text without regard for the reader (i.e. the child actually doing the reading), without regard for their interests, knowledge, and passions, will serve to further disengage children from the splendor of reading and give students more reasons to see school, and reading, as irrelevant.
“With unprecedented childhood poverty rates, an explosion in the identification of attention deficit disorder, recent reports of soaring teenage suicide rates, one thing is clear: the violation of childhood knows no boundaries.”
We are the adults, Scarice says. It is our responsibility to protect children, not to use them to satisfy our will or ideology.