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Academics aren’t the end-all

To the Editor:

I am writing to comment on the full page ad placed in your paper by the New York State United Teachers union.

The ad states: “It’s wrong for children to come home crying after taking a test.”

While they are referring specifically to the absurdity of imposing new standardized testing on students before they have had a chance to prepare, I need to give it broader context.

Every night at midnight, my alarm goes off. I wake up and, after a strong cup of coffee, I go on Facebook and start messaging with high school kids who are just finishing their homework. By that time it is about 12:30 a.m. The students tell me often how appreciative they are that I am there to help them through their stress.

It shouldn’t be that way, and we are making it worse. We have lost our way. In Finland, widely considered to have the best school system in the world, they give no homework in high school because they believe that a healthy child should have time for family and friends. In this country, we are talking about extending the school day.

Our teen suicide rate is at frightening levels, but theirs is among the lowest in the world.

In Sweden, they teach no ABC’s or numbers counting until children are six years old. Instead, they promote socialization skills, self-esteem building, and nature activities. By the age of ten, their children score higher on every testable subject than ours in the U.S.. Yet in this country we are talking about a full-day pre-kindergarten, presumably to enhance academic skills.

Why must we demean a child’s inherent need for play in younger years and to grow through socialization as teens? Why are we more concerned (obsessed?) with our young people acquiring academic skills at an earlier age, then we are with their emotional well-being?

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