Peter Gray: Kindergarten Teachers Speak Out for Children’s Happiness
At Psychology Today, Peter Gray asks how teachers can bring common sense and compassion to education policy.
The research is clear. Academic training in kindergarten has no long-term benefit. In fact, it may cause long-term harm. It does not reduce the education gap between the rich and the poor, which is the usual reason offered for such training. It slightly increases academic test-scores in first grade, but by third grade the benefit is lost and, according to some of the best studies, by fourth grade those subjected to academic kindergartens are doing worse—academically as well as socially and emotionally—than those who were in play-based kindergartens (for some of the evidence, see here).
The views of kindergarten teachers are also clear (see here). I have spoken at many early education conferences over the past several years, and at each one I heard from teachers about unhappy little children who are being deprived of play and forced to do increasing amounts of “seat work.” I also hear regularly from kindergarten teachers who are resigning or taking early retirement because they see that the policies they are forced to enforce are harming children. We are losing our best teachers because they are the ones who are most likely to see what is happening and least likely to tolerate it.
So why do we continue on this trend of depriving little children of play and joyful group activities, from which they learn so much, and subjecting them ever more to meaningless, shallow “academic work,” from which they learn so little? The answer, as far as I can tell, is that the politicians who make education policy and many of the administrators who enforce it know little about children or learning, and don’t pay attention to the two groups of people who do: those who conduct research on child development, and the teachers who see directly how the policies affect children.