October 23, 2008

The Graying Of Kindergarten: The Goal Is To Keep Them In Puberty, Part 1

The article is actually called The Lengthening of Childhood, but somewhere sometime the other phrase caught on, which is a shame, because this phrase is much more accurate.


The facts are these: a trend that began in the 1960s is holding back kids one year before they start kindergarten.  Instead of starting at 5, they start at 6. Part of this is due to changes in state laws which have pushed back the enrollment age cut off (e.g. must be 5 by September, instead of by December).  But this is only a small part.

There are three important trends. 

First, the kids held back are not being kept at home-- they are being enrolled in preschools.  So it is a purposeful delay of kindergarten specifically, not a delay of "going away to school."

Second, upper income, white parents hold their kids back at the highest rate.  Infer as you will.

Third, boys are held back at higher rates than girls, and this difference is increasing every year.

Unfortunately, the authors draw the wrong set  of conclusions from these findings.  For their own (good) reasons, they are arguing the impact on society, not on the individual.

For example, while there is a clear benefit in the first few grades to being one year older, the authors find that this improvement is not present later on in high school.  In fact, they show, the older kids are at a significant disadvantage-- for example, higher drop out rates.

But if a kid is one year older when he drops out, he'll have finished one less year of school, so yes, he'll be less educated.  But the expectation of the kids of the upper income parents-- the highest rate-- isn't that they're going to drop out.  So this negative doesn't apply to those kids.

Similarly, the authors say the delay depresses lifetime earnings; but this is obviously only  because they will work one year less in their lives.  Again, the individuals themselves don't care about this; society and the tax collectors do.

Where they do see benefit is in athletics: an older varsity player will be, on average, stronger than a younger one.  The practice of benching someone for a year so that they get older is redshirting, and the authors apply it to the kindergarten process as well.

So on the one hand, the practice has two clear negatives on society; but the more urgent question-- the one that would actually influence the practice-- is the impact on the kids themselves..

First, you have a class problem.  On the one hand, it sounds easy to criticize this practice as the social engineering of the rich.  But, on the other hand, if the other parents around you are doing it, how can you not do it yourself?  Would you willingly put your kid at a theoretical disadvantage when you have the means to not do that?  It's similar to the universal healthcare counter-argument: can you force a group of people to accept worse healthcare than they are getting now?  To accept it for their kids?

And this puts pressure on less affluent but aspiring parents to do the same-- the difference being that their five year olds won't be in private preschools, they'll be in daycares.  They will, in effect, get one less year of "education" than the rich kids.  What they hope will be a competitive advantage may be a disadvantage.  In other words, they' might be screwed either way.

As I say to everyone who will listen, which is no one, you can't blame the rich for doing it, and you can't blame the poor for wanting to riot.

Second, one might ask why this is happening to boys more than girls.  It's obvious to anyone who has ever seen a boy that they appear, as compared to a similarly aged girl, completely retarded.  So it makes sense that affluent parents-- any parents-- who have the option, will redshirt their five year old boy and hope he gets another year of maturity under his belt so that-- and this is my point-- he can keep up with the girls.  So the problem isn't simply that boys mature slower than girls, it is that they are required to perform the same exact skills at the same exact time.  Any surprise boys hate school more, "ADHD" is more prevalent, etc?  And there is more anxiety and thus pressure about the potential ineptitude of sons than daughters.

What's interesting and upsetting about the discussion of redshirting is that it is phrased in terms of class differences, which are the consequence; and not gender differences, which are a source.  The problem isn't redshirting, the problem is the school. You expect your five year old boy to read like a girl?  And when he doesn't-- what?  Hates reading?  Hates girls?

Third, you have the problem of the parents themselves who are looking for every advantage to give their kids because they don't know what else to do, they can't judge what's valuable or not.  So they look around at other kids and parents, and compete.  They don't know what the point of an education is, so they say "get into a good college."  That's the goal of 18+ years of education.  That single outcome.

For what?  They pretend that they have to do these things because the other kids do have these advantages, but they have no faith in the kids themselves-- that their outcome will be largely independent of what college they go to or even if they go to college.  College is, in a word, a scam; everything that promotes that goal is therefore doubly so.

I'm a doctor-- no one has ever asked where I went to college; no one has ever asked how I did in high school chemistry.   You can argue these things were important then, to get into medical school, but they really weren't.  Getting Bs instead of As may have meant I went to a different school, but not that I wouldn't have been a doctor, or a good one, or a bad one.  And since my real education didn't come from the schools anyway, it's moot.

I wonder, and I have not studied this, if one positive consequence of redshirting is that   studies that show American students are dumber in math than other international kids may be bunk, since those studies compare kids of similar ages, not similar grades.  Our 15 year olds may simply be in an earlier grade. This may also explain why the education gap disappears in college.

I'm tempted to conclue that the problem of redshirting is analogous to abortion: instead of trying to convince people it is a good or bad thing, we should just try to  eliminate the need for it.

----


Part 1 here. (This is it.)
Part 2 here.
Part 3 here. 

 

Diggs, Reddits, rum and/or donations all appreciated






Comments

"It's obvious to anyone who... (Below threshold)

October 23, 2008 11:48 AM | Posted by the0ther: | Reply

"It's obvious to anyone who has ever seen a boy that they appear, as compared to a similarly aged girl, completely retarded."

hahahaha. i love it.

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"College is, in a word, a s... (Below threshold)

October 23, 2008 12:00 PM | Posted by Mer: | Reply

"College is, in a word, a scam"

Not a sentiment you hear much from someone with a specialized, professional degree. I'd love to hear more on why you find this true.

Alone's response: wait for part 2...

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Proably because the motivat... (Below threshold)

October 23, 2008 12:19 PM | Posted by Conchyss: | Reply

Proably because the motivation for knowledge being more education is sort of a faulty one. College is kindergarten only with less crayons and more mindfuck. What should interest the parents more would be the sound assurance that their children won't grow up to be fuckheads, but instead rationally functioning beings which is kind of the purpose of the pre-college education.

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It's amazing how little con... (Below threshold)

October 23, 2008 12:39 PM | Posted by no hope: | Reply

It's amazing how little contemplation is needed to see education for the fraud that it is. "Education" is a euphemism for obedience and knowing your place. We all enter into this bargain - maintain the status quo, and you will be rewarded with physical comforts.

Behave and obey in school, and you will get good grades. Those grades will get you into college-track courses, those courses will get you into a "good" (read: prestigious) college, and your BA will show your employer just how many years you were a good little boy.

Conversely, if you are idle and wicked and don't obey, the threat is that you will "flip burgers". Society will punish and degrade you. It's not just the threat that you will be poor, it's the threat of public humiliation. The stockade.

These threats work best on rich white children. It's easier to threaten them that all their comforts will be taken away if they don't comply. Poor children (black or white) aren't fooled. They know that the promises won't ever be kept for them, and it's useless to threaten them with a life they might already have.

Show me the honor roll at a high performing American high school, and I'll show you a student population that is gripped with fear and shame.

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It's amazing how little con... (Below threshold)

October 23, 2008 12:40 PM | Posted by no hope: | Reply

It's amazing how little contemplation is needed to see education for the fraud that it is. "Education" is a euphemism for obedience and knowing your place. We all enter into this bargain - maintain the status quo, and you will be rewarded with physical comforts.

Behave and obey in school, and you will get good grades. Those grades will get you into college-track courses, those courses will get you into a "good" (read: prestigious) college, and your BA will show your employer just how many years you were a good little boy.

Conversely, if you are idle and wicked and don't obey, the threat is that you will "flip burgers". Society will punish and degrade you. It's not just the threat that you will be poor, it's the threat of public humiliation. The stockade.

These threats work best on rich white children. It's easier to threaten them that all their comforts will be taken away if they don't comply. Poor children (black or white) aren't fooled. They know that the promises won't ever be kept for them, and it's useless to threaten them with a life they might already have.

Show me the honor roll at a high performing American high school, and I'll show you a student population that is gripped with fear and shame.

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So, how did you do in high ... (Below threshold)

October 23, 2008 1:53 PM | Posted by varangianguard: | Reply

So, how did you do in high school Chemistry? lol

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Apologies for taking a left... (Below threshold)

October 23, 2008 3:19 PM | Posted by David: | Reply

Apologies for taking a left turn in an otherwise interesting and provocative posting. As you feel compelled to frequently excoriate universal health care with one or two line toss-offs, I feel compelled to respond. Maybe a "free will" topic is in order.

It's similar to the universal healthcare counter-argument: can you force a group of people to accept worse healthcare than they are getting now? To accept it for their kids?

Once again, you willfully misstate the realities of universal health care ... just look to Canada for an example. In 2003, the Government in Canada spent $2,998 USD per capita on healthcare as compared to $5,711 USD per capita in the United States, while almost every Canadian citizen was fully covered.

The system is known as a "public system" due to its public financing, but is not a nationalized system such as the UK's NHS; most medicare services are provided privately. With rare exceptions, medical doctors are small for-profit independent businesses. Canadians are free to purchase additional services should they wish to do so. Canadians are free to subscribe to Blue Cross, Green Shield and Manulife.

To answer your question: "can you force a group of people to accept worse healthcare than they're getting now?" Evidently you don't need to force a Canadian to accept anything. He or she OVERWHELMINGLY chooses Canadian medicaid.

Maybe Americans ... especially those 50% who were bankrupted by medical bills even though they had health care coverage,maybe those 46 million who have no healthcare coverage are different. Somehow, I really doubt it. In a USA Today/ABC News survey, 80 percent of Americans said that they were dissatisfied (60 percent were very dissatisfied) with high health care spending.

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I wasn't discounting the... (Below threshold)

October 23, 2008 3:43 PM | Posted, in reply to David's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

I wasn't discounting the idea of universal healthcare, only using that to show a group of people's legitimate concern about it.

That said, I do find it surprising, philosophically anyway, that healthcare is considered a profit driven enterrprise. Law is also profit yet simultaneously a service, but it is kept in check (i.e. the players are all trying to do their best) because their profit comes from success. Medicine isn't like that. Imagine if doctors got paid based on successful outcome.

But, and this is one of my chief concerns with throwing out the current system in favor of a socialized model, is that we accept that healthcare costs are rising, as if this was a) necessary; b) a reflection on improvements. Healthcare costs are artificially inflated. It may be that simply reducing these costs by a simple market model which I've detailed everywhere else on this site would reduce the costs even by HALF.

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My wife and I elected to "r... (Below threshold)

October 23, 2008 5:03 PM | Posted by GW: | Reply

My wife and I elected to "redshirt" both of our children (a boy and a girl) for a year prior to kindergarten. Our son is thereby the second-oldest child in his class, and our daughter third oldest.

This was very intentional, and stems from our own experiences when we were in school. Both my wife and I had borderline birthdays when we first began school back in the early 1970s. As was common at the time, children who were on the edge of the age cutoff for a grade were typically started in school as early as possible. I was the second-youngest in my class. She was third-youngest.

Socially, this was an enormous disadvantage, and one that persisted all the way through high school. Key patterns of behavior are established early, and we wanted our kids to have the advantage of being a little older during the most socially formative years.

It's worked.

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Well stated, David. I agree... (Below threshold)

October 23, 2008 5:38 PM | Posted, in reply to David's comment, by marcia: | Reply

Well stated, David. I agree with your position.

As for this quote: "can you force a group of people to accept worse healthcare than they're getting now?"

The answer is obviously, yes. That's what the private insurance industry has been doing to us for years: offering fewer and fewer benefits at a higher and higher price. Imagine what would happen with deregulation. Anyone who thinks he is really in control of his healthcare options is fooling himself.

Conservatives worry about raising the spectre of socialism, but the reality is it's already here in the form of Medicaid, Medicare, and tax write-offs for unreimbursed care (and don't get me started on the welfare bailout of the banking system). The question next becomes how can we move forward into a new era of quality, affordability and assured access?

I suppose we both digressed a bit from the "lengthening of childhood theme." :)

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I'm a Canadian, and while o... (Below threshold)

October 23, 2008 6:39 PM | Posted, in reply to David's comment, by Bruce: | Reply

I'm a Canadian, and while our systems is burdened in trying to service everyone, if we spent $5000 per citizen in Canada we would have likely already found a cure for Cancer! (tongue in cheek...our system would be essentially flawless at the rate of funding)

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I was informally "anti-reds... (Below threshold)

October 23, 2008 9:48 PM | Posted by Aaron Davies: | Reply

I was informally "anti-redshirted", if you will, by starting pre-K in Canada, where we were living at the time, where the cutoff was October 15 (my birthday is October 16), resulting in my being the youngest of almost every class right up through the end of college. I doubt it affected me much academically, as I was valedictorian (or salutatorian, depending on whose math you trust....) and went Ivy; as for socially, I seriously doubt another year at home/in pre-K would have helped--there's not a lot you can do to prevent an Aspie with conspicuous speech issues from being ostracized his entire school career.

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You sound like such a smart... (Below threshold)

October 23, 2008 10:44 PM | Posted, in reply to Aaron Davies's comment, by Shrinkology: | Reply

You sound like such a smart guy. I have such admiration for you... Did you get a chance to check out his essays on narcissism? I bet a genius like you would be able to appreciate them more than anyone else can. Seriously!

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Don't be an ass.Th... (Below threshold)

October 24, 2008 10:05 AM | Posted, in reply to Shrinkology's comment, by B: | Reply

Don't be an ass.

The average school child will hone right in on a speech impediment (very common in a spectrum child). Once they have noticed the child, every OTHER thing about the child becomes fair game (clumsiness at PE, inability to pick up on all of the social cueing that comes "naturally" for other children, etc.).

If the spectrum child happens to have a high to extremely high IQ on top of it all - well, just nail the coffin shut. It has nothing whatsoever to do with narcissism; it has to do with surviving bullying in a world that makes no sense.

PDD-NOS and Aspergers are still in the DSM, and their definitions are distinct from the personality disorders - you might want to check your copy.


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Is it time for an addendum ... (Below threshold)

October 24, 2008 10:41 AM | Posted by Per Jørgensen: | Reply

Is it time for an addendum to Godwin's law? If I may propose:

"As any Internet discussion in any context related to mental health grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving narcissism approaches one."

The corollary:
"Once such a comparison is made, whoever made it is automatically assumed to be a narcissist and disqualified."

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I guess that would make it ... (Below threshold)

October 24, 2008 11:05 AM | Posted by varangianguard: | Reply

I guess that would make it the Jørgensen Corollary then? ;)

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I decline. If I were to acc... (Below threshold)

October 24, 2008 11:09 AM | Posted by Per Jørgensen: | Reply

I decline. If I were to accept the honor of having a law named after me, I would become an obvious target for accusations of narcissism.

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lol... (Below threshold)

October 24, 2008 11:18 AM | Posted by varangianguard: | Reply

lol

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It took me until my junior ... (Below threshold)

October 24, 2008 9:07 PM | Posted by demodenise: | Reply

It took me until my junior year of college to figure out that it was a scam. (I had other, more pressing issues to deal with in my first two years, namely boys and very strong, very sweet alcoholic beverages).

You go to college not to get educated, but to get a piece of paper that suddenly makes better job opportunities, pay scales, etc. available to you.

Graduate school is the same way. I'm going into debt to get a piece of paper that says I'm eligible to take a licensure exam--and once I take that exam, I'm "allowed" to be a therapist. But I'm not learning how to do therapy in school; I'm learning how to do therapy at my internship by watching people do things that work, asking questions, going to trainings, making mistakes. . .

How long will it take me to earn a return on my investment? I'm going to be a social worker, so chances are a very, very long time, if ever.

But is it worth the money that I've sunk into my education? Of course. Since this is how the system works--for better or for worse--this is what I have to do to get to where I want to be.

So I'm going around the world to get to my point--there's obviously something wrong with the educational system if the point of primary education is to get a "better" secondary education--meaning, "jumping through hoops to get a piece of paper," not "increasing one's body of knowledge."

Enough blog-commenting for me. I've got to go pretend to write a paper that my professor is going to grade after she pretends to read it.

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demodenise,In my f... (Below threshold)

October 24, 2008 10:15 PM | Posted by AnonLibrarian: | Reply

demodenise,

In my field, the "education problem" is not only recognized but actively embraced by many practitioners.

In librarian email lists and blogs, there are frequent arguments over the necessity of the (intellectually bankrupt) Masters of Library and Information Studies. Inevitably, people will chime in admitting that the degree imparts little useful information and few useful skills, but still they insist that it's needed to limit the number of applicants for positions.

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Competition is not always a... (Below threshold)

October 25, 2008 7:41 AM | Posted by GL: | Reply

Competition is not always about winning.
I would rather compete with people who are better than me, and thus push myself further and improve my abilities.
If you put an older, smarter child in a class full of retards (no offense), no doubt he/she will excel, but will stay dumber for his age group and won't fulfill his full potential.

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Most of these kids don't re... (Below threshold)

October 25, 2008 11:07 AM | Posted by Alter Ego: | Reply

Most of these kids don't really need to be held back. They just need to go to school a year longer. They need patient teachers and parents who realize that each brain matures differently in different areas, at different speeds. Who refuse to freak out because Junior (it's usually the Junior) can't compete with the girl who's been taking Russian language classes in Utero.

(The girl often ends up working a low-end job for peanuts anyway, while she cares for the numerous children she created with some drunk, lazy bum, who happened to cross her path in the middle of the month.)

But only in Utopia.

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Being born in a particular ... (Below threshold)

October 26, 2008 5:02 PM | Posted by ALANO: | Reply

Being born in a particular month shouldn't affect your chances to play professional sports right? But it does-- http://www20.uludag.edu.tr/~hakan/sbtd/vol2/n1/1/v2n1-1pdf.pdf. If you had a guess as to what month a professional athlete was born, your best guess would be from January-March rather than October-December.

Could it be that these kids who are among the oldest in their class just more confident due to their early success? Could this apply to academics?

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Some good comments here. E... (Below threshold)

November 18, 2008 11:30 PM | Posted by Baldur: | Reply

Some good comments here. Education is not a scam, but what we call the Educational System certainly is.

Although spotty at times in terms of quality, I recommend the works of John Taylor Gatto on this subject. In such works as The Underground History of American Education he notes that from the early 1900's onward, the purpose of education in the United States changed from molding critically-thinking citizens to producing cogs for an industrial society - interchangeable people who could serve the interests of big business.

While troublesome in itself, that is doubly troublesome in an age in which those big businesses are dinosaurs that are unable to adapt and compete. We are educating students to serve an ethically questionable system that may not even be there by the time they are indoctrinated into accepting their social position. Thus, they will not even be prepared to be good slaves.

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Are you aware that people w... (Below threshold)

December 13, 2008 1:09 PM | Posted, in reply to Shrinkology's comment, by Camille: | Reply

Are you aware that people with Asperger's syndrome (thus "aspie") has trouble with social cues? That wasn't arrogance, that was just him/her telling you what is true about his/her experience. A truly narcissistic person would not have talked about being ostracized.