Tuesday, September 16, 2008

No Playground For Charlie

A few days ago I was picking up my elder son, Charlie, from his new nursery school. I asked the teacher, as I'm custom to do, how the day went with my son.

"It went okay. But just so you know, Charlie didn't get to go out to the playground today," she informed me.

"Why was that?" I asked, expecting that it had something to do with Charlie acting out in some manner, as he's sometimes want to do.

"Charlie didn't finish his work in time."

I have to admit that it took me a few minutes for what she said to sink in. Perhaps it was for the best because if I'd reacted immediately, I may have torn the poor woman's head straight off. What kind of a pre-school program for 4-5 year-olds penalizes their kids for not finishing their work on time??? How can you keep a very active boy inside while the rest of his peers are allowed out? Don't they understand how important playground time is for kids?

This preschool was highly recommended to us. It's a Montesoori school, so we know that the philosophy is different than the pre-school Charlie had attended in Hoboken, but if this type of Machievellian policy were presented to us up front, I don't think we would have signed our son up.

There's a point in all of us, I think, beyond mere personal anecdote. This type of belief system, that even small children must be groomed to be as productive and efficient as possible, that in some places nursery school selection is treated like applying for college, speaks once again about the cultural beliefs of our society.

Now, I'm not saying that children shouldn't be taught a degree of discipline, manners, values and given opportunities to explore and excel, but there needs to be a balance in all of this; and that's what I'm ultimately saying: our society is out of whack in its treatment of people and people suffer as a result. Whether it's children who are pushed too hard (or sometimes too little) or dads who are pushed too hard at work (or too little when it comes to family) or who feel that their only real worth is the amount of money they make, there's a real problem in all of this.

My wife and I are going to meet with our son's teacher and hash it out and we'll ultimately do what we think is best for our son, but it just saddens me how this type of societal attitude leaves no one unscathed, not even four-year-olds.


Tom said...

Holy moley. I remember having to deal with this with my oldest child many years ago. I finally ended up yanking her out of that class and finding another school for her. I couldn't believe anyone would expect a preschooler to sit and do "work" period, and then demand that she finish it "on time". I think the notion of completing work on time is ridiculous at that age. Kids that age aren't developmentally ready for that kind of thing. Yeargh, that makes me mad.

Good luck to the both of you, and I hope you reach a good conclusion, for the sake of your son and your own peace of mind.

Dana said...

Thanks for your comments, Tom. It's nice to know we're not alone in this sort of stuff. Hope all is well.


Nick's Dad said...

That is really messed up. Sadly, it doesn't really surprise me that much. For some reason, our society seems intent on removing the joy from childhood under the guise of creating a more productive adult.

I hope things go well with your meeting. Perhaps this was just one poor decision, and not an indicator of future problems.

Steve said...

I'm shocked. And a little frightened now that I may have been making inaccurate assumptions about how nursery works for my own (3 year old) son. I think I may start to quiz his teacher a little more! Thanks for posting.

Mamamiiia! said...

I totally agree with you! At that age, they should spend time playing! If they don't play now, when will they? My son is also 4 years old and goes to public daycare in Montreal (Quebec, Canada). I like your blog by the way!