American Elephants

Federal Funding to Teach Little Kids to Sit Still. by The Elephant's Child

From James Taranto”s Best of the Web, in the Wall Street Journal, May 27

Sit Still or I’ll Spend Another Half Billion Dollars! reports on the federal government’s latest brainstorm: Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told on Wednesday that the administration’s new $500 million early learning initiative is designed to deal with children from birth onward to prevent such problems as 5-year olds who “can’t sit still” in a kindergarten classroom. “You really need to look at the range of issues, because if a 5-year-old can’t sit still, it is unlikely that they can do well in a kindergarten class, and it has to be the whole range of issues that go into healthy child development,” Sebelius said during a telephone news conference on Wednesday to announce the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge.

It makes you wonder what became of 5-year-olds who went to school before these geniuses decided to spend $500 million in taxpayer money to make them sit still. Oh wait, some of them grew up into the geniuses who have now decided to spend $500 million in taxpayer money to make 5-year-olds sit still. If we can prevent that from happening again, maybe the expenditure is worth it.

There was a time when elementary school teachers were graduates of 2-year Normal Schools. Generations of kids learned to sit still in school, and parents told their children that they were to obey the teacher, or else.  After the end of WWII there was a drive to consolidate schools.  All those little country schoolhouses were closed so that country kids could go to a big school in a big town. Same thing went for small neighborhood schools. Big schools were more efficient.

Normal schools became four-year colleges, and colleges had education departments where professors developed theories and philosophies of education. If departments of education were to compete for students (and funds) with history departments, and science departments, they needed more structure. More attention was paid to the socialization of children. Gone were the portraits in each classroom of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Do they still begin the day with a salute to the flag?

The restlessness of kids was dealt with by recess, and the chance to play tag, dodge ball, annie annie over and red rover, and parents told their kids to mind the teacher. Miscreants got a spell in the corner in front of the whole class.

Then regulation and the lawyers entered the picture. Recess games like tag and red rover and dodge ball were banned.  Playground equipment like merry-go-rounds and teeter-totters and swings disappeared. Exercise was a function of gym class, under supervision. Lawyers and regulations proliferated and schools were sued for children’s rights, and children were expelled for drawing a picture of a gun.  So now we’re going to spend $500 million to make little kids sit still? I do not suggest cause and effect here.

But somehow while all this was going on, the schools kept failing, and fewer children learned to read, to write and multiply and divide. The government spent more money and schools of education developed more theory. Kids don’t need to learn math because they have calculators, and can you remember the last time a clerk (sales associate) counted your change back to you?

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