Despite Wednesday’s introduction of a federal bill to dramatically expand free preschool, few hands went up when we asked readers for their thoughts on early learning. Here’s an excerpt of what Liz Smith of Bellevue had to say in response to the question, “How can we better prepare young children for kindergarten?”:
Be like France, pay their mothers to stay home with them for the first three years of their lives. Invest in parents spending time with and raising their children … Read to children, take them to museums, have them participate in fun art and music, and keep that going throughout their educations. … Encourage parents to invest their time and energy in family activities. Don’t pressure them to be reading before they are ready … keeping them engaged is more important to their future learning than cramming academics down their throats before they are of the age to benefit from it.
Cursive, on the other hand, proved to be a livelier topic, with two related reader polls bringing in a total of nearly 700 votes — and counting. Several people also commented on the value, or lack thereof, of continuing to teach children to write in script:
The sad part is it’s (less cursive instruction) even affecting adults. I’m in my early fifties, used to have perfect spelling skills, yet now I find myself getting a little sloppy, letting my computer correct little things.
I’m not an OMG, LOL person, I do speak and write English, but it’s easy to start to lose those skills when a machine fixes things for you.
-web commenter “catboy777”
I’m less concerned about the quality of penmanship among students and more concerned about their command of English grammar and spelling. Being able to write in cursive isn’t worth a damn if you can’t craft a coherent sentence. You can’t polish a turd.
-web commenter “MelGourmet”
We also saw some reaction to Seattle School Board Director Michael DeBell’s guest opinion piece about what the U.S. can learn from the public education system in Singapore and other Asian countries. From web commenter “VinceIn Seattle”:
The thing I find intriguing in this piece is the vocational education. I would like to know more about it in Singapore and other countries. In the US, our middle schools and high schools are focused on college prep education. Those who utterly fail at these pursuits receive vocational education as the booby prize. But a working plumber or electrician can make as much or more as college graduates. Do you actually use the quadratic formula or read and write reports on Shakespeare? Is it important that every school kid have those experiences? Should our curricula reflect different interests and different job types? Or should every child take a college-prep program, on the theory that the highest options shouldn’t be foreclosed for 14 year old kids?