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Of Snips and Snails and Snowplows

Publication Date: 2008-01-31

A New York City snowplow driver knows what's developmentally appropriate for little boys.

From Metropolitan Diary, the New York Times:

Dear Diary:

When my son, who lives in New Orleans, brought his wife and 3 ½-year-old son to New York recently, the boy was thrilled to see snow for the first time.

But that thrill was superseded by the sight of a huge snowplow making its way up Madison Avenue.

Since trucks and huge vehicles are his present fascination, he vigorously waved to the plow operator, his enthusiasm quite clear. He had seen snowplows only in books.

He and his family, talking about this event as they slowly walked up the avenue, were most surprised when the snowplow appeared again and came to a stop right near them.

More waving, and then the plow operator stepped down from his perch, picked up the little boy and sat him on the plow for a brief moment, providing an experience in friendly New York City that he will never forget.

--Gloria R. Greenbaum

Kudos to the snowplow driver, who didn't need to read pronouncements from Harvard University researchers to recognize what's developmentally appropriate practice for a 3 1/2-year-old.

Think about how badly advocates of Junior Kindergarten miss the boat.

In some locales, if a 3 1/2-year-old will be 4 by December 31st, he is eligible to enroll in Junior Kindergarten, which will prepare him for kindergarten DIBELS success, which will prepare Grade 1 DIBELS success, and the NCLB-required tests in Grade 3, 4, . . . .

In schools participating in the expanded day program in Cambridge, MA, that 3 1/2-year-old will put in an 8-hour school day, which advocates say "is about exposing todayâs youth to the academic, social and cultural skills they will need to thrive in the 21st century."


Gloria R. Greenbaumâs grandson is fortunate that his day is filled with walking in the snow and encountering a snowplow driver who recognized what he needed to thrive. One may well argue that he can thrive because he is in a family affluent enough to afford him experiences children of poverty do not have. But putting children of poverty into skills pressure cookers is not a developmentally appropriate response to poverty.

We always seem to look for answers that benefit middle class professionals: reading coaches, tutors, university consultants, and so on. It would be a revelation to see what happens to children's ability to thrive if their parents earn a living wage. The authors of Making It Work: Low-Wage Employment, Family Life, and Child Development look at this very issue, asking such questions as What are the effects of low-wage job experiences for the development of children? The book examines how working below or near the poverty line affects not just parents' well-being but their children's development--their school performance and engagement, their social behaviors, and their expectations for their future.

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