Teaching social studies in kindergarten is absurd

Published 5:17 pm Thursday, March 7, 2019


Contributing columnist

I was a substitute teacher last week and ended my Friday in a kindergarten class. Friday afternoon might be a bad time to assess the state of kindergarten these days, but I suspect most days are this way.

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Disclaimer: This is in no way a judgment on the teacher or the school. It’s a statement on the current culture of how to educate children. If I do this correctly, I will also find a way to blame Matt Bevin and/or Donald Trump.

Kindergarten, back in the day, was a means for new humans to discover things about themselves and their buddies. They learned through play, with some structured learning thrown in to help them prepare for first grade and future work in adult cubicles.

The new humans would pretend to make a meal at the kitchen station. They would build things with blocks then knock them over. The new humans would sing and dance and play their way to knowledge.

Then legislators and testing companies realized the money-making potential of testing. They discovered through their marketing of fear-based education outcomes that children must be tested often in order to show that the teachers were doing their jobs.

In the state of Kentucky, it was determined we needed our own testing program developed specifically for our state. We have had so many versions of Kentucky testing that it’s nearly impossible to compare outcomes from one year to the next.

But I digress.

The class I was in last week had about 28 new humans, plus a teacher and an instructional assistant. The new humans had the energy of a nuclear blast. The room hummed like high-tension electrical wires. The teacher did an excellent job of leading the children through the paces of math and social studies.

Yes. Social studies. In kindergarten. (insert eye roll)

Why do brand new humans need to even know that social studies exist?

The last thing these precious new humans need is to sit, confined to a desk, to learn about social studies while sitting still and ostensibly quiet.

I felt badly for the little people and I felt bad for the big people, too. None of them really felt passionately about social studies in this setting. Because it makes NO sense.

These new humans need time to explore and discover their world. Their teachers need the freedom to allow the children to learn through imagination and playtime.

We, collectively, need the politicians to get their grubby, greedy hands out of the coffers of public education.

We are raising generations of children who spend too much time sitting in isolation. Children need time to run around outside and scream and chase and eat dirt. A good mud pie will cure a lot of ills.

This will change only when parents are fed up and have had enough of Frankfort’s foolishness. (Here’s the blaming Bevin part.) Matt “Carpetbagger” Bevin continues his march across Kentucky public education with his slash-and-burn-all-public-school-children policies, consequences be damned.

Teachers have staged sick outs with more most likely to come. Only when the parents of children in public schools show up on Bevin’s front lawn with pitchforks and tiki torches will he and the rest of the money-hungry lot, finally slow down their pillaging. Maybe.

Until then, our new humans will continue to be repressed, unable to concentrate, unable to sit in quiet, all the while they learn about social studies so they will perform like trained animals on tests that will determine how awesome, or not, teachers and schools are doing their jobs.

This is a nightmare. Someone, please wake me up.

G. Elaine Wilson-Reddy, JD, is a professional educator, consultant and advocate. She lives in Danville.