The Hard Work Of Our Children
On the radio yesterday, an elementary school principal in Connecticut credited the subject line above, along with increased professional development for teachers, with getting his school off of the state's Failing list. Listening, I pictured dozens of small first- and second-graders bent over desks, scribbling away with their pencils, maybe a tongue or two stuck out the side of a mouth in concentration.
I couldn't help but fixate on that phrase: "the hard work of our children." It seems wrong, somehow. Maybe it's my cushy 20th century upbringing, but hard work doesn't seem like something children should be doing. I recognize, of course, that 'hard work' for them may not be hard work for me, and it's all relative. I know that children used to be put right to work on farms as soon as they could walk. But that work was useful work, and practical, and more often than not, designed for each little worker's abilities.
And I know about standardized tests. I know what they do to students and teachers when too much emphasis is placed on them. Their benefits are abstract, they matter most to politicians and faraway capitalists. Seven and eight year olds should be doing the hard work of reading and math and playing well with others, and maybe geography. Not multiple choice, timed reading or writing, or anything following the words "high stakes."