Susan Ochshorn is an eloquent defender of childhood and an advocate for play-based learning for small children.


She wrote this article for CNN.Com pleading for public understanding of early childhood education. It is wonderful that there is a growing movement for universal pre-kindergarten, she says, but it would be a terrible mistake to align pre-K with the Common Core and insist on “rigor.” Little children don’t need rigor. They need to learn social skills. They need to play. They need to be children, not forced into a mold.


She writes:


Rigor for 4-year-olds? What about their social-emotional development, which goes hand-in-hand with cognitive skill-building? What about play, the primary engine of human development?
Unfortunately, it seems like we’re subjecting our young children to a misguided experiment.
“Too many educators are introducing inappropriate teaching methods into the youngest grades at the expense of active engagement with hands-on experiences and relationships,” Beverly Falk, author of Defending Childhood told me. “Research tells us that this is the way young children construct understandings, make sense of the world, and develop their interests and desire to learn.” She isn’t alone.
Early academic training has become an obsession among child development experts and teachers of young children as the Common Core standards have encroached upon the earliest years of schooling.

Kindergarten has already undergone a radical transformation. University of Virginia researchers Daphna Bassok and Anna Rorem found that in 2006, 65% of kindergarten teachers — more than double the number in 1998 — thought most children should learn to read on their watch. Meanwhile, the exposure to social studies, science, music, and art — the staples of a well-rounded early childhood education — had declined. And nearly 20% of teachers never had physical education.
All these trends have accelerated rapidly with recent education reform policies, including Race to the Top. As a result, kinetic 4-year-olds, squirming in their seats, face the prospect of having to put their noses to the grindstone in a rigorous classroom with little time for play. Never mind that they’re just beginning to get the hang of following directions, staying on task, and paying attention. We keep pushing them along, ignoring the pesky emotions that get in the way of regulation and executive function.


Bravo, Susan! Keep fighting for childhood.