Neuroscience Takes Aim at Preschool Children - Should we Allow It?
They don't teach kids any math skills until they arrive in preschool; now why is that? Well that is how educators, psychologists and scientists have always traditionally understood child development. It has always been thought that a child's brain is simply not developed enough for even basic math until the child turns five. And wouldn't you know it, the have decided now to see things differently, and not just about math either; they feel differently about teaching reading, geometry, what have you. And all of this comes from research in something called cognitive newer science. Perhaps the thing that threw off child experts before, was that all this while, they tried to teach little children math the traditional way, you know with pencils and math symbols for division. But now they want to go scientific; no more just looking at the child and telling yourself something like, "she looks about ready for counting in two rows now".
They are finding now that children who are in their first day at preschool can certainly comprehend some basic division, like when they are asked to distribute fou eight sweets among four kid s(I particularly like the scene in Little Man Tate where the teacher grandly asks the boy genius "Which one of these numbers is divisible by 2?" And the bored child replies "All of them". The teacher probably meant "evenly divided" when she asked that). In cities like Nashville and Boston, they have been trying to experiment with how to teach preschool children math skills better and earlier. And the teachers have utterly unfamiliar-sounding discussions - "how do we get to address the frontal lobe growth in students? " and so on. These are helping them bring dyslexic children a little extra help too. Even preschool education is going scientific, and they call it brain-based preschool. So far this sounds more like the ill thought-out Baby Einstein or Mozart Baby schemes, but there is more hope here, because they are not really making any claims; they're only experimenting.
But the thing is, the scientists always seem to tell us either things that are so opposed to what we experience with our own preschool children, or tell us things that we always knew from just looking at our children, and thought everyone knew it. What mother doesn't normally have a three-year-old that can count to a hundred? There is no special effort that goes into it; mother and child just count the steps off as they climb up a flight, they count the cars in the street, or at the very least they count to make sure that one child did not receive more M&Ms than the other. And it is not just with counting either. The mother in the house behind us tells us how her four-year-old can add small two digit numbers, and carry the 1 over, all in his head.
Certainly kindergarten and preschool do teach children in ways we just wouldn't think of; but one does have to wonder at some point: Is all this science really needed and are they just telling us things we already know, only making it very complicated-looking?" As impressive as all the science is, parents instinctively, and arguably correctly, choose the low-tech over all of this. Less TV time, and more face time with children and with parents. They are not little computers waiting to be programmed, you know?