Is Preschool Really Good For Our Kids?

preschool

I did my best to go over the pros and cons for preschool. It was a fun project to research.

Enjoy.

Introduction

When going back into time, the concept of childhood was not particularly used until about the seventeenth century. Back then, children were considered smaller versions of adults. Zohar Shavit, a Professor at the Unit for Culture Research at Tel Aviv University, discovered this in her research as well.

She said, “up to the seventeenth century the child was not perceived as an entity distinct from the adult, and consequently he was not recognized as having special needs” (Shavit 1989). During this time, people in society did not think to come up with any education for younger children because they did not recognize that they had special needs. Back then, children had to be admitted into an adult lifestyle at an early age due to their families’ need for them in the work force. However, Beatty describes that at the time of the seventeenth century, the concept of the child began to erupt. She says, “though the Greeks, Romans, and other ancient civilizations had concepts of ‘ages of man,’ Philippe Ariès and other modern scholars argue that only in the seventeenth century was childhood ‘discovered’ as a unique life stage requiring special care and treatment” (1995).

Due to the change of view that occurred in the concept of childhood, people finally began to think that education for younger children could be a good idea, since the young child developed in a different way than adults and older children. Without this realization, special needs that children have would have not been met. Overall, this is how the movement of preschool began. Preschool was developed because society grasped the idea that children had special needs, and preschool programs became ways to ensure the fulfillment of such needs.

The Pros

Discover Learning Disabilities

Sending children to preschool can help parents figure out if their children have learning disabilities or cognitive problems. Although not all students will have learning disabilities or cognitive problems, it is a good idea that parents and teachers be aware of the possibilities their children’s lives could take.  Bruce Bracken, a Fellow in the American Psychological Association and a Diplomat of the American Board of Psychological Assessment, comments in his book The Pshychoeducatinal Assessment of Preschool Children that “early identification can accurately pinpoint the child’s difficulties and a program can then be tailored to help ameliorate these difficulties” (2004).

By being aware and alert of opportunities to take on early identification, parents can take any preemptive strikes needed to help their children learn better if they develop more slowly than other children, or have cognitive learning problems.What Bracken is saying here is that the assessment of children who are in preschool can help prevent or treat disorders that young children may have. Moreover, if parents and preschools work together, they can prevent and treat disorders that are diagnosed in their children. This does not go to say that all disorders in learning are preventable, but at least parents who enroll their children in preschool and are aware of such opportunities can discover any learning problems that their children could possibly have.

Parents can be prepared to spend more time helping their child overcome their learning problems rather than have to worry about their children needing to repeat grades. In relation, Craig Ramey, a Professor of Psychology at Virginia Tech, and Sharon Ramey, a Research Professor in the Department of Psychology at Virginia Tech, state in their journal article that “waiting until these children ‘fail’ in school and then providing remedial, pull-out, or compensatory programs or requiring them to repeat grades typically does not sufficiently help these children to catch up and then achieve at grade level… There is compelling scientific evidence that this negative developmental cascade can be prevented” (Ramey, C & Ramey, S. 1982). From this quote we learn that there is no excuse to let children fail grades just because they have trouble, or they have learning disabilities. There are ways to prevent children from having to repeat grades, and preschool is one of them. Parents can stop such problems before they begin and preschool can help with this. Preventative measures are available and preschool remains a major part in helping with this. Overall, a reason that preschool should be implemented remains that it can help parents prepare for and perhaps prevent learning disabilities or cognitive problems that their children might have. With the help of preschool, preventative measures can be taken in order to help children succeed in the fast-paced curriculums in school.

A Sense of Familiarity

Through preschool programs, children have the opportunity to feel a sense of familiarity with social environments. Parents and teachers can work together and create activities that help and encourage children to become accustomed and comfortable with their future learning environments.

In their journal article, Karen La Paro, an Assistant Professor of Human Development and Family Studies at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Maria Kraft-Sayre, a research scientist at the University of Virginia Curry School of Education, and Robert C. Pianta, the Dean of the University of Virginia Curry School of Education, introduced their research on the study they performed on the effects of transition activities for young children preparing to enter into kindergarten. In the study parents were given opportunities to participate in transitional activities with their children in order to assist them with becoming more comfortable in school. A few of the activities included visiting kindergarten teachers and touring kindergarten classrooms. In addition, parents were encouraged to participate in activities at home that could help their child as well. Some of these activities included reading books to their children and setting up a routine for getting ready that would be used in the morning before school (La Paro, Kraft-Sayre, & Pianta 2003). In the results of the study, most parents felt that the activities were very helpful. In addition to these activities though, the study reported a reason why preschool can help children transition smoothly into kindergarten. The study said, “peer connections that continue from children’s preschool years into kindergarten also can help ease children’s transition to school by being a source of familiarity and an avenue for building social competencies” (La Paro, Kraft-Sayre, & Pianta 2003).

Power to Succeed in School

Preschool favorably equips children with the power to succeed in school. Ultimately, children need to be successful in their education. Nowadays, without achieving success in education, success in life is questionable rather than guaranteed. Katherine M. Dunlap, a Clinical Associate Professor at the Council on Social Work Education, discuses successful activities that occurred in the Perry Preschool Project.

She records, “the teacher enact[ed] a ‘plan, do and reflect’ strategy. In circle time in the morning, children select and plan their activities. At the end of the day, they review their experiences” (Dunlap 1997). In this way, the children who participated in the Perry Preschool Project learned to plan and reflect on their findings. They were able to learn about making choices and then discussing the choices that they had made.  These skills that the children obtained while in preschool can certainly be used in school and later in life. Such activities encourage positive transitions into school, which then result in success in school. La Paro, Kraft-Sayre, and Pianta, though, emphasize that “children who have a difficult transition to school and difficulty in adjusting to school usually have trouble catching up with their peers” (2003). The ideal situation is that all children in the same class be about on the same level as each other. Children who do not learn skills early on will have trouble catching up with their peers and could last a lifetime; this epidemic is not preferred, but preschool, however, can help with this. Instead of lagging behind for life, preschool can pinpoint problems, which can prevent them from ruining children’s educational lives. In the end, preschool offers many opportunities for children to succeed in education, which can lead to success in life.

The Cons

Countless disagree with the implementation of preschool. People are not pleased with preschool education because they think that the overall effects do not last a lifetime. Shikha Dalmia, a senior analyst at the Reason Foundation, and Lisa Snell, the director of education policy at the Reason Foundation, share their insights as to why preschool education should not be implemented. They question Head Start, a preschool program for low-income and disadvantaged kids. Moreover, they stress that “studies by the Department of Health and Human Services have repeatedly found that although Head Start kids post initial gains on IQ and other cognitive measures, in later years they become indistinguishable from non-Head Start kids” (Dalmia & Snell 2008).

If children cannot maintain the skills they learn for their whole lifespan, then preschool does not make a difference in the long run. So, why implement it if the effects are not going to last? When implemented in a horrible way, preschool is not effective at all claim David L. Kirp, a professor at Berkeley Law and the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley, and W. Steven Barnett, the director of the National Institute for Early Education Research. They ensure, “when preschool is badly done -with classes that are too big, teachers who know too little about child development and parents who are discouraged from getting involved in their own kids’ education- no one comes out ahead” (Kirp & Barnett 2008). So, it is better not to have preschool than to have a preschool that is badly done due to the fact that success and education would remain stagnant.  Moreover, children at such young ages should be with their parents and not random strangers. With developmental activity essential at young ages, children need their parents to have a desire to teach them and nurture them. Dalmia and Snell report that “kids with loving and attentive parents—the vast majority—might well be better off spending more time at home than away in their formative years” (2008). At such a critical stage in life, children should be with their parents who are the rightful teachers of their lives. Another example of negative effects of preschool is that parents may want to drop off their kid to preschool so that they do not have to deal with them. In addition to this, preschool aged children may learn bad habits or mannerisms from other children at their preschool. All of these things could be problems that occur in the implementation of preschool. In general, preschool has many downsides and according to some, should not be implemented at all.

Refutation

In contrast, preschool contains positive effects as well that may override all of the negative aspects. When talking about preschool, one goal is to help disadvantaged students reach the levels of development and learning abilities of their peers. A goal is not to get ahead of others, but to be alongside them. In this way, all children have the opportunity to be at the level where they should be. Competitions in learning should not occur in preschool; no, it is more about the personal goals of each individual child that remains important. Although preschools that are done badly can negatively affect children, parents should take the responsibility to do their research when enrolling their children into preschool.

By doing research, parents can avoid enrolling their children into preschools that are not acceptable to them. Kirp and Barnett acknowledge, “when pre-K is done right, though, the evidence confirms that it can alter the arc of children’s lives” (2008). In this way, with precautious researching, enrolling students in bad preschools can be avoided, and the attendance to good preschools can change your child’s life. Furthermore, preschool is not meant to be a daycare center, but a place where parents take their kids so they can learn and develop. Preschool is a program that requires parental involvement.

Conclusion

Since the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, people have recognized that the education of young children should occur outside of the home as well as within the home. Preschool is a great program to enroll young children in order for them to achieve school readiness and succeed in the aspects of education. In this way, preschool should be an option for all children. Three reasons why preschool should be implemented are that parents can learn early on if their children will have trouble learning, children can learn how to act in social environments and children can succeed in school. Overall, preschool offers benefits to children and their parents by ultimately changing children’s lives and preparing them for success in the real world.

Sources: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121936615766562189.html

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