An elementary school in Elwood, New York, just cancelled the annual kindergarten play because apparently children, even kindergartners, need to concentrate on preparing for college and a career. According to an article in United Press International, Principal Ellen Best-Laimit said in a letter to surprised and dismayed parents:
[box type=”shadow”] “We are responsible for preparing children for college and career with valuable lifelong skills and know that we can best do that by having them become strong readers, writers, coworkers and problem solvers.” [/box]
The school’s superintendent, Peter Scordo, issued his own statement, saying:
[box type=”shadow”] “Our educators believe that the traditional kindergarten performance requires multiple days away from classroom work for preparation and execution, and together with the lost instructional time this year due to poor weather, is not the best use of the limited time we have with our youngest learners.” [/box]
(Scroll down to see a photo of the full letter)
This is all well and good; even kindergartners should be getting the beginnings of a quality education. However, participating in a play is a great way to start teaching young children how to work together, how to follow directions in a practical setting, and how to lead, and how to follow. These skills are extremely valuable for college and beyond, along with the ability to read and write and do math.
Furthermore, this situation with the school play shows how the arts, which have also been declining in schools as people increasingly see them as a waste of time. However, being able to get up in front of an audience and speak and perform is a valuable skill. Many of us have to spend time creating and then giving presentations at our jobs. We’ll have to speak up at meetings. Entrepreneurs have to be able to think of ways to sell their product or service, which means being able to perform, in a manner of speaking. Book skills are all well and good, and necessary, but so are life skills. Depriving young children of these experiences is a great way to deprive them of sorely needed life skills.
There are studies showing that decreasing the amount of play time children have can result in more anxiety and depression. Cancelling the kindergarten play, as this Elwood school has done, only furthers the idea that play is a waste of time, and puts more pressure on young children who can’t handle it. While these studies focus on children’s free time (that is, time in which adults are not directing their activities), even cancelling a play, which gives children a mental break from classroom work, might have negative effects on their ability to understand and assimilate information.
Finally, the arts also foster creativity. Innovation doesn’t happen in the real world when people have no creative skills. This is something all educators really ought to know. So what is this school doing? They’re failing to understand what a well-rounded education actually is, for one thing. Reading, writing and arithmetic are not the be-all and end-all of an education. And this school is doing its kindergarten class a serious disservice.
School teachers, staff and families will attend a meeting to discuss the issue further, and parents launched a petition on Change.Org that you can sign.
Here’s the video via UPI.
And here is the letter: