Aggressive Schooling

April 8, 2009 / 12:18 pm • By Dr. Melissa Clouthier

There have been all sorts of articles written about Helicopter Parents and now, there’s a new trend called “slow parenting“. Slow parenting is just as the name implies–yank your kids out of activities and slow down. There is competing evidence, like came from Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers that kids do better with more activities and need at least ten years of consistent, hard work to achieve mastery. And then, there was his extolling of the schools that go year around and for eight hours a day, including Saturday.

Slow parenting might be a new trend, though I’m dubious. Aggressive, strung-out parenting seems to be the norm. Kids have their extra-curricular activities and then they come home…where they are the victims of aggressive schooling.

All the parents complain about aggressive schooling and then, they comply. Their kids come home with projects beyond their ability and the parents are forced to “help” or else the child will be consigned to B+ status.

There is a method to the schooling madness. By making every piece of homework a little too difficult and a must-check and sign by parents, teachers off-load responsibility. If the kid is uneducated, it’s not the teacher’s fault, the parents just don’t care enough and aren’t involved.

Beyond the state’s control of the individual’s behavior, is there any evidence that front-loading education accomplishes anything besides making kids tired and frustrated with school?

And while kids seem to know more minutiae do they have the context to put this information in?

My concern is practical–kids are tired, worn-out and have less time to just play. My concern is also scientific. It seems that there should be evidence that these methods actually work. Children are scheduled heavily and working evenings and weekends when the time could be spent doing other things. Does this work pay off? What are the outcomes to this approach?

If SAT scores mean anything, education has declined, not improved. From the Wall Street Journal:

High-school students’ performance on SAT college-entrance exams stalled, and the gap widened between low-scoring minority groups and the overall population, raising questions about the quality of teaching in U.S. schools.

There should be evidence that broad academic front-loading is helpful and effective. If not, kids need to be cut a break. They have their whole lives to learn taxonomy, but there are only a few years to play.

  • WayneB

    I would dispute that children are given tasks that are beyond their ability. I believe that they are not given the proper grounding in the basics so that they can do good work on the projects and tasks assigned to them. There is no drilling on the 3Rs anymore in the lower grades. I always use basic math as an example: Basic math is not repeated until it is reflexive – it is presented until the child can stumble through it on a fairly reliable basis, then is moved on, but not enough overall time is committed to it.

    One of my friends (a Liberal if there ever was one) always complained that when he was in grade school, he had problems with the “threes” his multiplication tables. He said he was forced to write his “threes” table 100 times, and talked about how terrible that was. I asked him, “Do you EVER have any problems with them now?”. His answer was no, but he never seemed to get the point.

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