Tuesday, June 3, 2008

A Lack of Respect

I’ve read a couple of seemingly disparate stories recently that are linked by a common theme. The first was a New York Times article that described the use of electronic monitoring devices to discourage truancy in students with a history of truant behavior. Quoting from the article:

“Jaime Pacheco rolled out of bed at dawn last week to the blaring chorus of two alarms. Then Jaime, a15-year-old high school freshman, smoothed his striped comforter, dumped two scoops of kibble for the dogs out back and strapped a G.P.S. monitor to his belt.
By 7:15, Jaime was in the passenger seat of his grandmother’s sport-utility vehicle, holding the little black monitor out the window for the satellite to register. A few miles down the road, at Bryan Adams High School in East Dallas, he got out of the car, said goodbye to his grandmother and paused to press a button on the unit three times. A green light flashed, and then Jaime headed for the cafeteria with plenty of time before the morning bell.”

The article went on to conclude that electronic monitoring is seen by some educators as a promising tool for improving school attendance.

The second article is a piece from the Boston Globe that documents resistance in some affluent communities to full-day kindergarten. Here’s an illustrative quote from the article:

“A growing chorus of parents now say they want their children home more, and accuse school districts pushing full-day kindergarten of depriving them of quality time together. They say that those districts are meddling in the fundamentals of parenting, such as how much structure to build into young children's lives and how much time to leave unfettered.”

The article cited the warmer reception full-day kindergarten has received in many urban settings where longer school days for five year olds has been linked to improved academic outcomes (at least that’s the hope).

Here’s what I think these two articles have in common: a lack of respect for children and childhood as a special time of life. Electronic monitoring may improve attendance but does so by treating students as criminals. Full-day kindergarten may relieve parent concerns about daycare and provide more time for learning, but is it developmentally appropriate? Should all five years olds be spending six hours a day engaged in structured – and increasingly – academic activities?

Just because these practices “work” does not mean that they are moral, ethical, or even sensible.

No comments: