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Does Your Kid Sound Like He's 30? - How Culture, Not Schools Might Be to Blame for Low Test Scores

Posted Aug 26 2008 11:36pm

This summer, my friend Crystal and I took our kids to the free Shakespeare performances in the local park. Prior to each of the two plays (we say 1 play twice and the other 3 times), we read the kids’ the children’s versions of the plays from this book. After, we continued to read several more kids’ version and bits and pieces of the “real thing”. So, they are, at 5 and even the younger one at 3, fairly conversant with the plots of these two plays.

At a recent play date though, Crystal told me, her son incorporated a few lines from Shakespeare into his play with the other 5-year-old. This drew a quizzical; if somewhat pained look from the other Mom and the comment, “Your kid sounds like he’s 30”.

Well yes, and I guess many home schooled and classically schooled kids do, when compared to the average kid. I’ve also been told my DS knows more than many college students and that he must be very bright, to which I nod and smile. But, the truth is, he is not necessarily brighter, it’s just his range of knowledge is different than the average kid’s.

I actually know a fair number of very bright kids, of all ages who can’t find the US on a map. (Actually, I didn’t need to tell you that – you’ve heard about the dismal showing that the US makes in international testing.)

So, let me go out on a limb here. Why do my kid and kids like him know more than many kids of comparable age? Why are there perfectly average kids who can discuss literature and history and science and very bright kids who can only discuss Transformers or Disney princesses or Dora The Explorer… or National Sports teams or video games or, gulp, My Space?

None of these things are necessarily bad (well, OK- maybe some video games) but neither are they “good” in the doses in which kids take them these days. I’m not sure it’s the school system that is to blame for our scary showing in national testing. While educators bemoan our scores and push our kids harder and harder in school at ever younger ages, no one stops to think…hey, maybe it’s not that they don’t learn enough at school, maybe it’s that they don’t learn enough everywhere else. Parents, who want, really want, the best for their kids are caught up in the current culture that revolves around TV and TV inspired toys, books, clothes, etc.... and home life often revolves around these things.

Home life has changed in the last 25 years. I can’t cite any study here but I have a sneaky suspicion that you might be able to correlate the rise in cable TV homes to the drop in test scores. Add in the distraction of video games and a toy box full of character based toys then…well, what are kids going to talk about? What they see on TV and the games they play with their toys. Take away the TV and away go the characters. Kids then have time to focus on something else…often in addition to sports that’s learning about things that matter.

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