Sunday, March 6, 2016

Molding, shaping, and grooming young people...

Early this morning, while processing the excesses of last night, I read an article about a woman whose six year old daughter was given a worksheet asking her to decide which branch of the military she would most like to join.  The article fascinated me on several levels.  First off, it was presented to kindergarteners.  Though it's been thirty-eight years since I was in kindergarten, I don't remember the work being that advanced.  Of course, I also went to a British school.  Seems to me, we were focused more on play.  I remember playing with blocks, learning the alphabet, learning to read.  The worksheet featured in the article I read seems very complex for such young children.

Secondly, while I think the worksheet's overall lesson is worthwhile, I can't imagine why someone thought it was appropriate to use military branches as the object of the lesson.  Why not use something benign like fruit or colors.  Would you rather eat an apple, a banana, or a pear?  Would you rather wear blue, red, or green?  Who thought asking little kids about their military branch preferences was appropriate?

Thirdly, while I understand the author thinks the military is some kind of evil occupation that involves constant violence, I'm here to tell her that it doesn't.  Going to war is one part of the job.  Handling weapons and learning how to fight are but a couple of aspects of being in the military.  There are plenty of other aspects of military life that have nothing to do with war and violence.  Moreover, if we didn't have a military, it's doubtful she could enjoy the peaceful anti-war existence she does right now.

I'm not going to get into the political arguments about the military.  I am not in the military myself, so I can't speak to the experience of wearing a uniform.  All I can say is that I've been around military folks my whole life.  Yes, there are some people in the ranks who could be considered war mongers.  There are a number of people who joined the military because where they came from didn't offer any better alternatives and they lacked the ability to go somewhere more suited.  Some people in the military are "dumber than hammered dirt" as my husband would say.

On the other hand, some people join the military because they see it as an opportunity to live a life of service.  Bill, who is one of the kindest, more peace loving people I know, has told me many times that he joined the Army because he wanted to be of service to other people.  He might have been able to do that had he become a psychologist or a fireman.  Knowing Bill as I do, I think the Army appealed to him because it offered him a place to grow up and develop confidence.  He was proud to wear the uniform and I know there are days when he really misses it.

The military is a respectable occupation for many people.  I am sick and tired of reading screeds from extreme liberals who don't actually have any real experience with the military.  I don't blame this mother for being upset that her six year old daughter came home with a worksheet about joining the military.  I agree with her that it wasn't an appropriate lesson.  At the same time, I cringe when I read an opinion piece about how violent the military is as an occupation.  It certainly can be a violent job, but that's not everyone's experience.

The simple fact of the matter is, the military is composed entirely of adults who choose to serve.  Not everyone who wants to be in the military can wear a uniform.  Kids in school are exposed to all kinds of occupations.  It's part of growing up.  I attended school in a town where the military was very much respected.  I come from a family full of veterans.  At my school, everyone took the ASVAB as a matter of course.  It never occurred to most of my friends to refuse to take it.  Guess what?  Most of us didn't join up.

Young people should have options open to them.  They should have information available so they can make the best choices about where they want to go in life.  For some people, the military is a viable road to success.  I see nothing wrong with presenting that option to young people.  Not six year olds, mind you, but teens who might be suited for serving in the Armed Forces.

The vast majority of men and women who serve in the military come out of the experience just fine.  A lot of them have life experiences and friends they never would have had if they'd been civilians.  Nobody who wears a uniform likes war.  Instead of dumping on people who choose to join the military, why not pay more attention to the people who are elected and make the decisions to send people to war?

That's my rant for the day.  It's time to eat breakfast and by the time I'm finished, I will probably be in a less contentious mood.


  1. Kindergarten is far less play-oriented than it used to be. Most kindergarten classrooms no longer include such fixtures as home centers (i.e. play kitchens). A movement is in place to return kindergarten to the social skills, gross and fine motor skills, and readiness curriculum it once featured.

    While I'm not enamored of most of what I've seen of the late great "whole language" movement, it may not have been an altogether bad thing for kindergarten, as it seemed to allow children of varying levels of maturity and academic readiness to function satisfactorily in a single setting. Some children read before kindergarten. Others are probably nowhere near ready to read in first grade, although the process probably should not be delayed any later. Whole language seemed to accommodate everyone within a single classroom.

    Then again, one of the biggest problems with kindergarten turning into first grade at the expense of fine motor development and social development is that teachers are finding that older students have never learned the art of turn-taking, that their penmanship is abysmal, and that many of them can't cut on lines. It's been hypothesized that a heavily contributing factor may have been the abdication of the teaching of social skills and fine motor skills in kindergarten. I'd add two additional factors, at least as far as handwriting is concerned: 1, children are being forced to write before they are developmentally ready, which leads to bad habits that they'll never lose; and 2, schools have drastically reduced the amount of time they spend teaching and having children practice either manuscript pr cursive writing.

    Sometimes I think I'd like to go into pediatrics not so much because I want to treat children but because I could use the specialization to function as an advocate for developmentally appropriate practice. to do that, however, I'd need to pt in years of practice before I had any credibility whatsoever. I don't really want to treat patients for that long. I'd rather do my one year of internship, then go into a research-based residency.

    The worksheet sounds totally lame. The alternatives you suggested would be just fine.

    1. Here in Germany, kindergarten lasts longer than a year and is all about play and social skills. They even have what's known as "forest kindergarten", which means the kids go outside to play in all kinds of weather. They even take a camping trip with their teachers and classmates and their parents aren't allowed to interfere.

      I can see why they used that worksheet. It was supposed to be about Veteran's Day. I can't say that it was "grooming" kids for the military, per se... but I do think it would have been more appropriate for older kids. I think it's sad that people are in such a rush to force kids to grow up.

  2. Within about five keystrokes of hitting the "send" button, I looked up the kindergarten topics you mentioned and read articles pertaining to the forest kindergarten and the associated camping trips sans parents. It's all very interesting. I don't think I could send my very young child on a sleep-away excursion, though I really don't know since I don't yet have a child. The way things are done in Germany and the way they are done here in regard to early childhood education are very different. Kindergarten in Germany appears to be an optional early childhood educational program versus the U. S.'s version of kindergarten as a single-year first-grade boot camp. It's not even an apples-and-oranges comparison. The comparison is more like pomegranates-and-combat boots. Germany's take on kindergarten would certainly seem to be a more literal interpretation of the word than what we have in the U. S., which makes sense in that kindergarten comes from the German language. While I like their interpretation of and approach to kindergsrten, however, there are aspects of their early childhood education programs that I would not choose in practice. With their society being more socialistic than ours is presently, parents in Germany would presumably have a more relaxed approach to the idea of a village taking a more active role in co-parenting their children than would happen here under our present structures. There are benefits and drawbacks to either approach. I couldn't say which side is correct. Perhaps it's not a case of either side being right or wrong, but rather just a difference in philosophy and approach. In terms of less close supervision, though it sounds nice, I'm not convinced it's a great thing. While no one in the articles I read was advocating much less mandating extremes in lax supervision, it would seem to me that anyone who does not see his or her child as a replaceable commodity (I mention this because, in my opinion, some members of my family parent as though they do view their children as such) would be foolish to adopt free-range parenting practices. My issue with helicopter parents isn't their level of hovering over preschool aged children but rather with their provision of supervision and/or interference long after such should still happen. When parents are still hovering over high school and college students, there's a problem. I would maintain that supervision of young children is a good thing, although I would concede that even there, one can have too much of a good thing, and that from the age of two years or so, a child should begin to gain independence in some areas of his or her life, With regard to overnight trips, the elephant in the center of the room for me is the idea of molestation. It's one of the issues that would most concern me about sending my child away to a sleep-over camp. Are there fewer child molesters in Germany (such wouldn't be out of the question, as it sort of seems their society as a whole may have healthier attitudes about sex in general than we have here, which might lead to less of such behaviors as child molestation) and/or are they better at keeping such pervs out of the field of early childhood education, or do the instances of molestation by early childhood teachers simply receive less publicity? I'm not suggesting that abuse would be rampant in such settings, but if we commonly had sleep-over school excursions for very young children, there would undoubtedly be the occasional instance of child sexual abuse. I acknowledge that children are statistically more likely to be molested in their own homes by family members or by others close to their families than they are in school or day care settings, but if molestation in the home is happening, it's already happening whether children go to sleep-away camps or not except on those nights when the child is actually on an overnight excursion.

  3. We don't seem to hear of so much child sex abuse happening in the schools in Europe. Why might such be the case? And have you seen any of Germany's kindergarten programs? I know this must have been difficult to read. Sorry!

  4. major technical difficulties with computer

  5. Within about five keystrokes of hitting the "send" button, I lost a carefully written response due to a virus my non-med school computer seems to have contracted. Next weekend I will replace my recreational computer with another product if it cannot be satisfactorily debugged by then. I find it incredibly frustrating to lose something I've taken time to write. I'll attempt to replace it, but I'm not going to divide it into paragraphs because that's when I will most likely lose what I'm writing this time. It will be a jumbled mess of a run-on paragraph.I hope you can make sense of it.
    Within about five keystrokes of hitting the "send" button, I lost a carefully written response due to a virus my non-med school computer seems to have contracted. Next weekend I will replace my recreational computer with another product if it cannot be satisfactorily debugged by then. I find it incredibly frustrating to lose something I've taken time to write. I'll attempt to replace it, but I'm not going to divide it into paragraphs because that's when I will most likely lose what I'm writing this time. It will be a jumbled mess of a run-on paragraph.I hope you can make sense of it.

  6. I could make sense of it.

    You're asking questions I don't know the answers to, mainly because I don't really have a horse in the race. I think most of the kindergarten teachers (and to my understanding, they aren't even considered real teachers) are women. That doesn't mean they aren't capable of molesting children, though.

    I don't think child molestation is as big of a problem as many people believe. Yes, it certainly happens, but it often involves a kid being singled out by someone known and trusted by his or her family. They usually groom the kid and make sure he or she doesn't tell anyone. A field trip involving a bunch of little kids who are likely to talk about what happens is probably a fairly low risk.

  7. Our preschool teachers, who seem essentially to be the equivalent to kindergarten teachers in Germany, also have much lower levels of certification than do teachers of either special education preschool or grades k-12 (general or special ed.)in the U.S.

    Molestation seems to be highly sensationalized, and it usually is home- home-or family-based, but there seems perpetually to be a case or two in most locations around here that is/are somehow connected to the area's local school system -- usually a teacher. And all it takes is one case involving the local school system every ten years or so to keep the idea fresh in the public's minds. With preschool-aged children being especially vulnerable, parents would be all the more concerned about sending their tiny children off for overnight stays. It's not necessarily a rational fear.

    We have some male preschool teachers. This is not right, but male preschool teachers, especially in less liberal areas, are looked at a bit judgmentally. My aunt had a gay male general education preschool teacher on the staff where she teachers special education preschool. So many parents pulled their children from the program when their children could not be reassigned from the man's class just because he was a gay male that he ended up with eight students in his class, which was probably one-third of what he started out with. As far as my aunt knew their were no specific allegations against him; parents just were not comfortable having a gay male teach their preschoolers in that redneck location.

    In reality, molestation would be a very rare happening, but most of us here are a bit paranoid about it. I would be more worried about it happening to my very young child because really young kids are somewhat defenseless. If I have children, I'll keep my own working hours to a bare minimum if I work at all, or I'll ask my spouse to stay home with my child or children if my income is the primary family income. I really wouldn't be totally comfortable with my own children between the ages of 2 and 5 who couldn't independently manage their personal needs going off with school personnel for days at a time. I do understand that society is very different in most parts of Europe, and they seem to routinely send children off at much younger ages than we do here.

    I also get the idea that you have no dog in the fight. None of this affects you personally right now, so if you're not hearing about it from your neighbors, most of what you know about it is what you have read.

    1. Well, I think German culture is also pretty different. People don't seem to go in a tizzy over isolated incidents the way Americans do. They also don't watch CNN 24/7. In fact, Germany reminds me a little of what the US was like in the 80s, except there's Internet.

      German parents, by and large, seem to be big on fostering independence and letting kids work things out for themselves. Little kids are expected to walk to school by themselves here, just as I did when I was six and seven years old (in northern Virginia, no less!). Also, it seems like German parents are a lot less hypervigilant than American parents are, probably because there's less threat of a CPS type organization interfering. I would love to be able to raise a kid here.


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