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Education Reporter

Full-Day Kindergarten Brings More Problems Than Benefits
Full-day kindergarten could be the poster child for the old saying "If at first you dont succeed, try, try again."

For 40-plus years, the professional educational establishment has been busily changing all levels of the public school curriculum. Whole language and sight reading programs replaced phonics-based instruction for teaching children to read. In math, instead of memorization, practice and drill, students and teachers were handed such entertaining programs as "New Math," "New-New Math," "Fuzzy Math" and "Rain Forest Math." Professional educators have also extolled and promoted open concept teaching and block scheduling.

Throughout all of these educational experiments, we have been solemnly assured that these megabuck programs were proven, winning formulas for producing well-educated students. They werent and arent, although the textbook publishers have laughed all the way to the bank.

Now, yet again, a "new" idea has been discovered in the hallowed halls of our Indiana Department of Education: full-day kindergarten. Stuffing active, little bodies into a structured, five-day-a-week school routine is just the ticket. (The official kindergarten age is yet to be determined so that it will be consistent with that of other states.)

Boys are especially affected by an early structured school environment because they develop slower than girls. This type of situation can frustrate and depress them, producing rebellious, even bullying behavior, not to mention a dislike for learning.

The report from the Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development demonstrated the correlation between the incidence and severity of stress and behavioral problems in children spending long hours in daycare. The same conclusions were reached in a study from the Institute of Child Development of the University of Minnesota. The use of tranquilizers such as Ritalin to force boys and increasingly girls, too, to endure this endlessly structured environment is a terrible national scandal.

Swiss child psychologist Jean Piagets research indicated that childrens mental processes develop according to sequential levels of growth. All the mega doses of vitamins and ISTEP test cramming in the world will not hurry these growth rates for young children. Piaget has long since gone to his reward, but babies and children are still puttering along at the same rates of growth.

Full-day kindergarten is not a new idea. Todays children do not have less ability to learn than children of any other period of history. What has radically changed and been restructured is the content of the curriculum. Children can learn to read by the end of the first semester of the first grade, when taught by using a phonics-based reading program. Reading, and later writing and math, are the cornerstones of all the later academic subjects taught in school.

The assumed cost of full-day kindergarten would be staggering. It is another pie-in-the-sky educational experiment. Children five years old and younger dont need to be stuffed into a structured school situation five days a week. They need to be running and playing at home with their prents and families.

Instead of raising and squeezing taxes, our tax laws should be changed to support families so that the mother is not forced out into the labor market and children into day care and full-day kindergarten. All the fantastic ISTEP (standardized test) scores in the world cannot justify preventing mothers from raising their own children.

Do we really want government to be our childrens babysitter and hear lines like this: "Hi! Im from the Department of Education, and Im here to teach your children. Trust me!"

Patricia Hokenson, a Muncie, IN resident, has bachelors and masters degrees, with a reading endorsement, in elementary education. This article first appeared in the Muncie Star-Press and is reprinted with permission.

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