We Are Monsters

My daughter was literally deemed “behind” and put into AIS (Academic Intervention Services) within a month of starting kindergarten because she didn’t know her alphabet yet.

We are monsters.

Yesterday it was, “Arkansas bill would cut school lunch funding over reading scores.”

Today it was, “The Case for Old School Kindergarten: Why we need to Let Our Kids Play.

And my outrage at how we treat our smallest, most vulnerable children has been fully triggered. Again.

She came home last week one day crying because at the end of the day most of the kids went outside to play for recess and she missed half of it because she didn’t finish her work.

My ex-wife and I are both educators. I spent most of my 32 years in the classroom as a special education teacher. I know about child development. I know about learning theory. We were confident that Kindergarten was far too academic and developmentally inappropriate for our kids, so they were homeschooled.

That was in the 1990’s, before No Child Left Behind, the spawn of a Republican administration, and Race to the Top, the spawn of a Democratic administration, turned Kindergarten and the primary grades especially, into systemic, abusive miseducation.

She is also the youngest member of her class by almost 6 months. Of course she was a little behind. But seriously, give her a chance before basically deeming her dumb. This kid can tell you what a “stabilizer” is but she just couldn’t spell it for chrissakes. I’m talking about 2 weeks into school when the letter came home.

The best measure of any society is in how it treats children. We don’t have to go very far for the measure of ours. From the children ripped from the arms of their parents on the southern border and the abominable state of our mental health services for children and adolescents to the education “reforms” of the past 30 years that have reduced public education into a dehumanized system run by bean counters, ideologues and cynical, ambitious politicians who have consistently ignored what we know about how children develop and learn, there is only one conclusion:

We are monsters.

She’s five years old and asks to not go to school at least twice a week. She also has homework. Every night. Every single day she comes home with a math and a writing worksheet.

At five school was still fabulous and exciting for me. I loved it and looked forward to it. She doesn’t and it’s horrible. We shouldn’t be discouraging them this early when this is their first impression of the entire school system. It will set the tone for everything!

Children are political pawns. Children are numbers. Children are things.

Make no mistake, this is a bipartisan abomination.

I left kinder three and a half years ago. I ran into one of my former kinders, now 16, and her mom yesterday. I told her she was lucky she went when it was so good… many good years with authentic, fun, no pressure learning. I didn’t even recognize my profession when I left. I had to give multiple choice unit tests every three weeks! I had to teach how to bubble.

Once, I met with my principal to try to get a digging area outside (I was hoping for an area with small pebbles so the kids could dig.) He took me for a walk and showed me the virtual goggles they had in their STEM room. ~Ami McChesney , former Kindergarten teacher

The systematic dismantling of American public education has been going on for decades and it’s all been a fraud based on a lie. There was a time when the Democratic Party was a staunch ally of our students, teachers and public schools. That ended in the 1990’s under Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama’s education policy threw gasoline on the dumpster fire of George Bush’s. Educators have been raising their voices against this for over ten years and it has been only recently that some have started to listen. But it took teachers subjected to the very worst classroom conditions taking to the streets to get the plight of American public education into the mainstream media, which has otherwise been complicit in  ignoring us.

Now is the time to raise that volume even more. Finally, there is a progressive wave pushing back against the Democrats’ rightward, corporate, privatizing shift. We need to get the message out to those politicians that our children desperately need to be rescued from the dehumanizing forces currently treating them like programmable little robots.

(Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, please take heed and add this critical issue to your powerful voice. I’m hoping any tweeting readers will share this with her.)

We need to make this an issue during this emerging campaign season.

The picture at the top of the page went viral when it first appeared five years ago. How could it not? How could you look at that and not feel the powerful human instinct to protect that child? (You can read the story of the pic HERE.)

Now, in the name of all that’s good, use your imagination to get into that little girl’s head and feel what she’s feeling. Now multiply that image by hundreds of thousands.

Feel the horror.

We. Are. Monsters.

(I want to thank Ami for her anecdote and Jasmine, a former student of mine, for sharing her daughter’s Kindergarten experience.)

Michael Lambert

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Photograph by Kelly Poynter