The Education Wars Part IX
Thank you for this!!!! We are far far from perfect parents, but I can attest to the importance of early play and reading first hand. We did it from day 1 - literally, we took books to the hospital and read to our babies there.
I’d love to say it’s because we just knew how important this was, but in reality I was terrified one of our babies would be autistic, so I did a ton of research on early intervention and realized it would help any baby - lots of interactive reading and non-verbal “conversations” with facial expressions/ sounds/ body language, as well as motor planning. My husband went along with it more because he’s always adored our kids and loves playing with them, and figured having some guidance from early childhood development research so long as it was still fun couldn’t hurt, not because he shared my mostly baseless paranoia.
Our 10 yo daughter has an IQ of 128, and our 8 yo recently tested at 140. Both have always had very advanced social-emotional skills.
The difference between their early development? Our now 8yo son was born unilaterally deaf. A language facilitator went to his daycare a few hours a week and read/ played/ taught him (and his classmates) to pay attention to sound from the time he was 6 months old. Our idiot state ended the program and replaced it with a far more expensive and completely useless “program,”so we pulled him quickly from the useless program and paid his old language facilitator cash to keep working with him. We almost get angry when people give my husband and I credit for his success considering his challenges. His language facilitator did the real work. He would not be where he is without her. Period.
I do find the challenges as a parent are never ending in accessing education and healthy development. Aside from all the relativism insanity, and Covid turn your curiosity and brain off to just comply with “mitigation” that physically can’t work that is impacting kids’ ability to develop logical judgement, we have educational infrastructure that caters to the mediocre. My kids go to an ACSI exemplary accredited Christian school (there are only 18 with that level of accreditation in the country) and their actual school is pretty good, but outside enrichment is a train wreck. Summer camps are dumbed down around here - even science camps. STEM in their school is legit, but outside nothing but low level arts and crafts projects. Most of the zoo/ science center based camps are still encouraging masking to “protect others” - it’s like they want to be sure parents know not to expect actual science. It’s gotten so simple, boring, and dumb. I am scared for my kids’ generation. How do we save this generation from being uncurious and simple minded when so many institutions are training them to be compliant ideologues rather than curious learners? How do I help my kids? Where have all the curious adults gone who can inspire curiosity in kids?
Thank you, Mathew. On point, as always. I will keep telling people to read your substack.
After linking to the Benjamin Bloom article, I forwarded that to family and some pro-peace associates. My daughter has been home-schooling her girls for the last year or two and is hooked into a home school network. I also hinted to them that they may be interested in Mathew's other writings, and I became a paid subscriber.
You experience in creating effective schools reminds me of Sir Ken Robinson and his TED talks https://youtu.be/zDZFcDGpL4U
My favorite is when they put a computer in the side of a building in the poorest region of southern India and the natural curiosity of the children allowed the to figure it out and perfom on the same level as the most privileged private school. The most memorable comment by a child was, why did you make us learn English in order to use this machine? Children have so much undeveloped potential that modern schools fail to allow to thrive.
Great work, I love reading your work.
I read an article a few years back about early childhood development. A study showed no improvement in long term outcomes for disadvantaged kids subject to early preschool vs. no early preschool. Other researchers found the key to change must occur in the first 3 years of life. Children must hear a lot of words for one thing, and directly from their parents or caregivers. They designed an app to help new moms count their words.
My husband and I have cared for my 5 year old granddaughter since her birth. We talk and play with her all the time and limit tv to half hour or so. No ipads or other small screens. It can be exhausting at times but worth it. She's not only very smart, she is so loving and fun to be around.
I consider this one of your most important articles. Tangential story:
I was fortunate to go to an elementary school (EPIC) that had a great system for motivating kids to read. You would earn AR (Accelerated Reader) points by taking these pre-made 10 question quizzes (on the AR system on a computer) on fiction books you've read, and if you got 6/10 right, you'd get the points associated with that book (longer/higher reading level books = more points). There would be an auction/trade at the end of every year where one could trade "AR points" for things like Pokemon cards, Yugioh cards, books, and lots of trinkets and games that kids considered to be cool things at the time (There was also an auction for bigger things, where your currency was also your remaining AR points).
I thought this was a great system, and it encouraged lots of students, including myself and most of my friends, to spend time reading, who would have otherwise spent all day after school playing video games or watching tv.
Unfortunately, when I moved to away from the school downtown to a school in the suburbs, the school in the suburbs didn't have a good reward system for encouraging people to read, even the the school in the suburbs was much wealthier/received more funding for other things.
There's actually a lot of people who tune out to the way reading is taught in schools and don't learn to read well or fast or associate words with how they are spelled on paper until middle school or later or until adulthood (or never).
EPIC was the only school in the Birmingham City area that I know of that had such a program (EPIC received some special attention in other ways too), thought I wish many more did as well.
I was also lucky that my mom took me to the library somewhat regularly to check out books and make sure I learned to read when I was young, because I was apparently slow to pick up English as a kid, according to her.
Without these two things, it's possible I wouldn't have learned to read or read well til much later, at which point it's harder to gain proficiency and confidence in your reading skills.
One of my best friends didn't get encouragement to read til middle school. He was able to catch up to middle school reading level after my mom encouraged his mom to encourage him to read, but he never gained the focus/ability to speed read without vocalizing the words out loud as well as those who started younger, and it was hard for him as a middle schooler.
Definitely the younger the intervention and encouragement, the better and easier it is later on in life.
Hey Matthew, have you ever heard of The Institute for the Achievement of Human Potential? They began in 1960 and in 1962 published their first book Teach your Baby to Read. They continued with teach your baby math, and haven't stopped. Their primary work is training parents of brain-njured children to restore them to above average mental and physical functioning, but a few weeks a year they work with parents of uninjured children to help them not impede their children's natural genius. It all comes at the expense of fun-based, positive-reinforcement, testless learning. Of course they've run into the same roadblocks you have in getting the model out, and look across the street to Philadelphia's 50% functionally illiterate High School graduation rate while they're 5-year-olds read Shakespeare.