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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

TEACHING RAINBOWS (Part 24)

The following continues the serialization of Chapter 3 on education from SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity:


An Additional Suggestion Regarding Early Childhood Education


As barely mentioned earlier, yet another opportunity not being embraced, mostly because of budget priorities, is early childhood education (ECE). Government can only do so much, and ECE has historically been looked on as a free baby-sitting service, when applied to 2 to 4 year olds. There is also the important matter of mothers being with their children at this early age, so it was not necessary for the ruling party to take on this responsibility.

I scoured the literature, and found innumerable papers and books on the subject. Most of the treatment reflected standard nursery school practices. That is, provide an opportunity for pre-school youngsters to play and learn how to relate to people and society, allowing the parents to, frankly, work. Unfortunately, this is where the child learns to become a model citizen and loses that innate creativity. The process of teaching a child to be civil can forever suppress innate creativity.

There is that special twinkle in the eye of many children in the 2-4 age category, some who talk too much, many who try the patience of normal human beings and a few who arrive at ingenious solutions. Parents, in preparing their child for formal schooling, feel compelled to teach good citizenship, which begins the process of destroying this imaginative spirit, and schools provide the death blow. Most never recover this out of box character later in life.

Maria Montessori, in the early 1900’s, began to develop in Italy a teaching methodology for forming the whole person where children direct their own learning. Teachers provide materials, but maintain a silent presence. If you’ve ever wondered what the Montessori Method was, this is it. She ultimately upgraded the concept to apply even to universities. There is something to this technique that can preserve creativity.

In 1972, Margaret Thatcher, as the UK Secretary of State for Education, proposed that education be provided by 1980 for 50% of 3-year olds and 90% of 4-year olds. While her motivation might not have been to protect inventiveness, the opportunity was at had to make a difference. Alas, economic recession hit, and the plan was never implemented.

The best way to maintain inspiration and resourcefulness in the 2-4 year old is through some mandatory process. The budget and space hurdles will make this concept a difficult sell, but all available data show that such an effort will return several dollars per dollar invested. Even programs like Early Head Start cannot seem to get going. For this Really Early Head Start Program, the beginning will need to be one day per week, probably on a Saturday, so that space will be available, and at least one parent (or relative) will need to be present with the 2-4 year old child to make the effort effective.
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The Dow Jones Industrials edged up 20 to 10,247, while world markets were up in the Orient and mostly down in Europe. Gold increased $5/toz to another world record, $1107, and crude oil settled at $79/barrel.

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Tropical Storm Ida made landfall at Mobile, Alabama, and is moving eastward, disrupting Gulf Mexico oil producers and bringing a lot of rain to Florida. Another disturbance popped up in the Atlantic, but is not expected to cause trouble.
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