Wednesday, May 31, 2006

NPR thinks I'm a bad parent

NPR thinks I’m a bad parent because I haven’t taught my infant to sign or put my 3 year old into a language immersion class. No, not really. But excuse me if I’m a little grumpy about this middle class obsession with having smart kids. It’s very easy to get caught up in the competition or start to think that you’re a bad parent because you don’t buy into it.

The sign language thing is bizarre. One of the benefits touted for teaching your kid to sign is that they learn to read earlier. Now, we have decent literacy rates in America. Based on the National Assessment of Adult Literacy for 2003, 87% of Americans can at least perform basic literacy tasks. They’re not the best, and I know we can do better. But if you only look at people who have at least attended some college that number goes up to 95%. And, if you look at people who have just attended some high school it drops to 50%. Maybe, it’s a leap, but it seems clear to me that the problem with literacy in the US is not with the middle class (using college attendance as a proxy for being at least middle class). The problem seems to be with immigrants and the poor.

And yet here we are spending education money on middle class toddlers so that they can learn to read a little sooner than normal. That kind of reminds me of the healthcare situation. We spend a lot of money on healthcare, but have mediocre life expectancy rates, especially when compared to other western countries. The reason, some people say, is that we spend a lot of money on expensive treatments and little on preventive care.

The language immersion thing I can get behind. Except that it too is presented as a way to make your kid smarter. I’d like my children to be bilingual, because I am and I think it’s cool. I could care less if it makes them into baby Einsteins.

But there are other things to think about with language immersion. Do you want to take the Catholic route and immerse them when they don’t have a choice or the Baptist route and wait until they are old enough to make a choice? The Catholic approach has the critical period hypothesis going for it. If you wait, they may have a harder time learning a second language. But then again, they might want to put it off until they are seniors. It’s all so confusing.

5 comments:

g said...

just out of curiosity (and this is really off topic from your rant, which i whole-heartedly support because it seems to me like what the npr crowd really wants to do is turn children into circus animals), but are your kids learning other languages now? i can't imagine them regarding a second language like a religion... i mean, i'd be mad if i were immersed in a religion i didn't choose cuz then i'd have a heck of a time shaking it if i didn't want it anymore. but languages? is it really possible to know too many? and there is something to be said for firing up those linguistic synapses early in life. helps if you end up a lazy adult (*coff* like me).

Philadaddy said...

What do you think this is Sweeden or something? In our winner-take-all hypercapitalist system, if your kid isn't double majoring in business and Chinese by preschool he'll be scrubbing toilets for life. Get with the program, slacker.

AJ said...

Lori and I were discussing the same thing. My one brother has his 1 year old daughter learning signing, and his wife speaks to her in French (exclusively I believe). She's a Francophile from Northern Maine, I think she has heritage issues. We had the thought that by learning signing early wouldn’t that reduce the urgency to communicate by speech and slow that development? And to take it one step further it's observed that kids that speak sooner are generally a little better off than those who speak later? So could teaching signing at such a young age actually delay other more crucial communication skills and domino into other development? She’s an infant not a gorilla she’ll communicate clearly soon enough. All that said, they’re great parents, love her dearly, and if that’s the only thing one could question then who cares.

Yeah – it’s confusing to say the least. We didn’t do anything special with Tori nor with Nicholas now other that give them lost of attention, help re-enforce pronunciation and grammar when young, encourage them to read before bed, and whatever other creative pastimes they wish to embrace. They both love books now - Nick picks his reading before bed himself and Tori reads anything she can set her gazxe upon. Tori is very self-driven – she was out of kindergarten for 3 month with mono. When she left she was reading and writing well into the first grade level, when she returned from her absence she was into the second grade level. That probably says more about just how much we really need to send her to school at all…

It’s just like wine – don’t let anyone tell you what tastes better, it’s your own taste that counts. Go with your own gut. All people and kids are different, and taken to a sibling level even then one may thrive in a high impact pre-kindergarten curriculum while the other may want to just play and learn on their own. Each will turn out just as well.

jware30 said...

There is an over-fixation in our culture with exposing kids to stimuli early. Starting with the whole playing classical music while in the womb. There was a time that I actually felt a sense of guilt over not exposing my kids to enough or to the right kinds of experiences.

I've since learned to relax, and my kids have passed those supposedly critical stages.

Off my four kids some are way a head of their class, some are ahead and some are on target.

What can I say I love and am proud of them all!

liberal elite said...

are your kids learning other languages now? i can't imagine them regarding a second language like a religion... i mean, i'd be mad if i were immersed in a religion i didn't choose cuz then i'd have a heck of a time shaking it if i didn't want it anymore. but languages? is it really possible to know too many? and there is something to be said for firing up those linguistic synapses early in life. helps if you end up a lazy adult (*coff* like me).

I haven't started teaching my kids any languages. I probably should. But I feel like if I get Max into immersion Spanish and then he grows up to be obsessed with China then what? I guess it's not so bad to know more than one language, but knowing English and Spanish, say, isn't going to help him really learn Chinese later on. So, I don't know, maybe I should just throw caution to the wind and immerse him in some language.

There was an error in this gadget

Site meter

Search This Blog