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Fidgety Boys, the US Economy, and Recess

Publication Date: 2014-04-30

Recovery Has Created Far More Low-Wage Jobs Than Better-Paid Ones

Our economy replaces good jobs with bad ones

A Link Between Fidgety Boys and a Sputtering Economy

Oh well, just blame those fidgety boys & their teachers

On April 29, 2014, David Leonhardt posted
A Link Between Fidgety Boys and a Sputtering Economy at the New York Times. Former Times Washington bureau chief and Pulitzer economics columnist, Leonhardt is the managing editor of "The Upshot," a new Times venture that "focuses on politics, policy, and economics," featuring analytical journalism, with an emphasis on data and graphics.

This piece linking fidgety boys and the economy immediately drew hundreds of angry comments, including mine:

This is a perfect example of blame the victim. The real problem is the curriculum bought for the public schools by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation--with the National Governors Association and Chief State School Officers acting as deal-makers. The US Department of Education stepped in as Pusher and deal-maker (Want Race to the Top money? Then embrace Common Core.)

Take a look at Finland. School starts with lots of playtime. They don't even introduce reading skills until kids are 7 or 8.

Our curriculum enforcers push skills earlier and earlier, now declaring 4-year-olds (particularly boys) "not ready" for kindergarten, where they teach skills previously taught in 2nd grade. All in the name of making kids ready to be workers in the Global Economy.

Shame on you. Little boys who don't want to sit all day have nothing to do with an economy built on greed and deceit.

At the New York Times online site, my comment elicited nearly 300 "Recommends," but the Times "pick" of comments noted that the problem is parents no longer control their kids. ("When I went to school boys who ran around the room were told to go to their seats and sit down. . . .") Another Times "pick" expands on this theme (" In the mid-1800s, at the turn of the last century, and up until a couple of decades ago, boys were able to sit for much longer periods of time than they do now. For that matter, in Shakespeare's time boys who went to school were at their desks from morning until early evening. . . .")

To be fair, the Times also "picked" this comment:

Or maybe the growing problem is caused by the strangling of our school curriculum with high stakes standardized tests, drill-it-to-kill pedagogy, and the loss of art, music, recess, phys ed, and the kindergarten play in favor of nothing but reading and math. Some boys and girls can handle it, but if you look at a bell curve, the end where they can't handle is going to have a lot more boys. Instead of drugging them all with aderall, it's time to return elementary school to a developmentally appropriate pedagogy that embraces the whole child.

What fidgety boys need is recess. So do obedient girls. But this seems lost on a reporter whose area of expertise is economics, not young children.

Making good on the promise of graphs and such, the article included a graph provided by two sociologists listed as education expert at Third Way, a group focusing on influencing politicos with "moderate policy and political ideas." And quotes a third person associated with Third Way, the founder of the original third way group known as New Democrats that helped elect Bill Clinton. A resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute is also quoted, along with a link to her article in Time, What Schools Can Do to Help Boys Succeed.

Certainly it's not surprising that a money guy goes for research such as School Context and the Gender Gap in Educational Achievement. And reaches this conclusion: [I]n an economy that rewards knowledge, the academic struggles of boys turn into economic struggles.

I need convincing that ours is an economy that rewards knowledge. There's a whole lot of evidence that who you know counts much more than what you know. And these days knowledge is very narrowly defined by outfits like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the U. S. Department of Education, The National Governors Association, as well as the opinion column bunch at The New York Times.

If David Leonhardt wants to know about fidgety boys, I'd recommend he contact the Alliance for Childhood, who publish things like A Research-Based Case for Recess

I sent a letter to the Times. I'm not holding my breath in anticipation of publication. But as Stephen Krashen demonstrates, we must keep trying.

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