All I Really Need to Know I (Should Have) Learned in Kindergarten

Are no-excuses charter schools setting kids up to struggle later by pushing academic skills too hard, too soon? 

By Emily Kaplan
backpack-schoolThe very youngest children at the charter school at which I taught all start their nine-hour school day in the same way: by reciting the school “creed.”

“I AM A…SCHOLAR,” the two hundred children chant. The principal weaves among the tables, making sure that the children “track” her by turning their heads in accordance with her movement. One child lets out a giggle. He is immediately sent to the Silent Area.

I HAVE THE POWER TO DETERMINE WHO I AM, WHO I WILL BECOME, AND WHAT I DO IN LIFE. They point their thumbs to their chests, extend their arms, and stack their fists in unison. I WILL STAY FOCUSED ON ACHIEVING EXCELLENCE. 

I notice that one of my second-grade students is wearing one neon green sock, in stark defiance of the dress code. I am contractually obligated to order him to take it off or to send him to the dean. I smile and look away.


I turn my attention to the table of kindergartners next to me. They’re my favorite to watch, these tiny children who haven’t yet learned to be predictable.

Most mouth the words obediently: TODAY IS A STEP ON MY PATH TOWARD SUCCESS! On cue, their little fists shoot into the air.

The principal smiles and returns to the front of the cafeteria. Ignoring the group of children sitting stone-faced in the Silent Area, she announces that we’re about to sing a catchy song about self-determination.

But I am giggling. The kindergartner next to me didn’t say “path to success.” He said “path to recess.” Continue reading →

Career Tests for Kids: Pass the Crayons

This kindergartner cries upon learning that she has failed her career test and is qualified to work only as a school turnaround artist, a field in which she can operate free of the burden of success or failure.

News that the ACT is developing a cool new career test for kindergartners was met with predictable scorn and outrage by the anti-testing crew. While the spectacle of kiddies clutching crayons and coloring in bubbles to correspond with their career interests was apparently too much for the no test brigade, the EduShyster gives the idea a 36, a perfect score by ACT standards.

Why does EduShyster love the idea so much? A) Our youngsters are being taught the important skill of coloring inside the bubble, one that they will put to use on infinite occasions during the next 13 years B) career decisions, much like the proclivity for white collar crime, are genetically determined and this test will simply help us identify what jobs are in Johnnie’s genes C) this test will give us a cool new way to evaluate the performance of Johnnie’s teacher and help her transition to a new career if necessary D) this test teaches kids how important it is to share, as in: by introducing a career test for kindergarteners, ACT made an aggressive move to capture market share among young test takers. E) the test is so easy that even a pineapple can take it, after which the remaining kindergartners may dine on said pineapple’s rings.

Besides, everyone knows that most children have already formed strong career preferences by the age of 3. (The young EduShyster had already begun training for a job involving cake eating, sandboxes and anything having to do with bathrooms). Continue reading →