Lest I get in hot water with all the parents out there, my short answer is “no.” Now let me explain the question.
I recently learned of a bill coming before the Utah Senate which would fund all day kindergarten throughout the state. Perhaps I am thinking of my own kids only, but I am convinced that all day kindergarten is not helpful to most students. For those who would point out that it is optional and not required I will say two things: first, when will that change, because our trend is towards adding requirements such as these to combat falling achievement results; and second, This post is not just about all day kindergarten. (Now on to what it is about.)
Forty years ago we had fewer after school programs, less technology in schools, and less emphasis on standardized testing. We also had higher literacy rates, better scores on math and science tests, and probably higher graduation rates (I could be wrong there – I have no data). If we add those two things together we should come to the conclusion that after school programs, more technology and emphasis on standardized tests are not the solution to the problem facing our education system. (They are great for the bottom line of some technology companies and some education companies who specialize in testing or after school programs.)
I don’t mean to imply that having computers and other technology in schools is bad, or that tests make kids dumber (I know some people who make either of those arguments) but we should see that they do not solve the underlying problem.
Another trend that I think has a greater impact on our education system than the technology, tests, and extra programs is this – the vast majority of students today come from one of two kinds of homes: single parent homes or two income homes. This was not the case forty years ago. The real problem confronting our society and manifesting itself in our education system is that children are not getting the care from involved parents that they used to get. They are getting more activities and government sponsored daycare solutions and less of mom or dad sitting down to help with homework, attending parent-teacher conferences, being aware of what’s happening in their lives, or even playing with them in the back yard. Our problem is homes which are nothing more than places to sleep and families which are all about blood relations with no thought about relationships.
Programs like all day kindergarten make it that much easier for parents to decide that they can both work and let the government raise their children. I admit that some people are in a position where they need outside help, but in most cases it is a matter of convenience rather than need. Society should not be burdened by the financial and social cost of funding a convenience. For those who have needs, we should be looking for ways to help their needs without making it convenient for others to go joyriding at our expense.