Susan Ochshorn rightly worries that the current policy craze for universal pre-kindergarten will push developmentally inappropriate practices into the early years. Kindergarten will become what first grade used to be, and four-year-olds will be expected to read and take standardized tests.

Ochshorn writes:

“Fast-forward to the polar vortex of 2014. Nerissa Ediza’s tweet, on February 1, says it all. “What sober person gives standardized tests to a kindergartner? Someone who’s actually never met a five-year-old?” she asked, releasing into the twitterverse a picture of the front page of The Oregonian. “Kindergarten test results ‘sobering,’” read the headline, the text below depicting Governor Kitzhaber’s displeasure with early childhood education’s “scattershot” approach.

“Rebecca Radding, a former pre-K and kindergarten teacher in a New Orleans KIPP school weighed in a week later, spilling her tale of woe:

Radding wrote:

“By year three it had become very, very difficult for me to hide my disdain for the way the school was managed. In the previous two years, I’d fought hard for the adoption of a play-based early childhood curriculum, only to see it systematically dismantled by our 25-year-old assistant principal. When this administrator told us that our student test scores would be higher if we used direct instruction, worksheets and exit tickets to check for their understanding, I lost my shit. I’m sorry, but five year olds don’t learn that way.

“I was fired a week later. Well, to be fair, I was told that I “wasn’t a good fit”…Somewhere along the line I developed this radical idea that children are humans who should be treated with dignity, and that the classroom should ideally be a place to be even if schooling weren’t compulsory.”

Ochshorn continues:

“The earth has moved—an avalanche of accountability, threatening the child-centered precincts of the field. Whole cities are assigning homework to preschoolers, demanding they “read” hundreds of books. “Study finds that kindergarten is too easy,” crowed Education Week, reporting on a forthcoming article, in the American Educational Research Journal, by Amy Claessens, Mimi Engel, and Chris Curran, who found greater gains in math and reading when students were exposed to more advanced content. The article, soon to retreat behind a firewall, has garnered most-viewed status on AERA’s website since it was posted on November 13. Claessens attributes the interest to “some pretty interesting policy implications,” adding that “shifting what you’re teaching is very cost-effective.” Nothing like a little cost-benefit analysis to get those synapses firing.”

What kind of person would think that “kindergarten is too easy?” Maybe someone who has never met a five-year-old? Someone who has never taught a five-year-old? Someone who thinks that children should be seen and not heard? Someone who believes “spare the rod and spoil the child”? Maybe what we need are workhouses for tykes who don’t read by five and who don’t do their homework.

What kind of society will we be if we listen to people who don’t understand or like childhood, who think that four-year-olds and five-year-olds need to work harder and play less or not at all?