Jared Felkins: This isn’t like any schooling you had when you were in school

The description of kindergarten Thursday evening at Castle Heights Elementary School didn’t have the same allure it had 32 years ago for some reason.
Aug 2, 2013
Jared Felkins is director of content at The Democrat. Email him at jfelkins@lebanondemocrat.com or follow him on Twitter @paperboyfelkins.

“Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.”

— Albert Einstein 

The description of kindergarten Thursday evening at Castle Heights Elementary School didn’t have the same allure it had 32 years ago for some reason.

One of the kindergarten teachers said the incoming students would be the first in Tennessee to participate in state testing. Not a big fan, but that’s another column for another day.

Still another teacher said our kindergarteners would be writing papers on topics that “go beyond what they did that day or how they feel.” These, according to the teacher, would include writing on nonfiction books and topics.

It was then when I caught that “surprised” look from my wife from across the table in the cafeteria.

It was then when I turned to my son, who just started middle school, and asked him, “Hey, are you guys doing anything like that?”

“Huh,” he responded as he looked up from his iPod. “I wasn’t paying attention.”

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m a big fan of school and education, especially since the alternative is pretty much against the law and is proven to produce bad outcomes. But this is a lot to absorb as a parent of a 5-year-old child.

Kindergarten, a noun derived from the German kinder, which means children, and garten, which means garden, is defined by Webster’s as a school or class for very young children. In the U.S., children in kindergarten are usually about 5 years old.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but there’s nothing there that includes statewide standardized SAT 10 testing or analytical reviews of nonfiction texts.

Further, there’s a greater distance from the root of the original definition than anytime since the word itself was invented in the mid-1800s. Gone now are the images of young children frolicking in a garden. Even without the new rules, I envision more mud pies and monkey bars involved, along with an investment in stain remover at wash time.

It’s especially different from the days of kindergarten in rural L.A. (short for lower Alabama) I’m accustomed to from my childhood. See if you can relate.

My fondest memories of kindergarten remind me of the most basic definition of social networking without the computer or smartphone. It was a time when we learned the basic principals of social behavior – what’s acceptable or unacceptable.

For instance, us boys learned pulling a girl’s hair doesn’t get the same response as trying to hold hands with her. Well, sometimes it does, but you get my drift.

We learned life essentials like how to tie our shoes and making milk shoot out of our nose. Kindergarten was about learning patience, kindness to your fellow person, when to speak and respectfulness.

In fact, I learned the hard way and will forever have the connotation as such. I own the distinction of being the first kindergartener to be paddled in the first class of kindergarten at my alma mater. I was caught writing on the floor during nap time.

So we can certainly add consequences to that list of things we learned in kindergarten.

As a fan of new things and change, I plan on keeping an open mind through this exploration with my 5-year-old daughter. My only hope is that we don’t stray too far off the familiar path of kindergarten as we remember it.

Jared Felkins is director of content at The Democrat. Email him at jfelkins@lebanondemocrat.com or follow him on Twitter @paperboyfelkins

 

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