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.