Enter kindergarten ready for college

Published 1:40 pm Monday, November 17, 2008

I reported here: The more education opportunities have been provided for American citizens and the more Americans have attended college, the less educated Americans have become.

I now suggest another twist to this. It may be such signal factors as verbal ability are less the result of education than its cause. This, then, suggests serious responsibility for parents. The best thing parents can do to prepare their children for college is to send them to kindergarten with age-appropriate verbal ability.

Perhaps education becomes successful for those entering college with verbal ability, but college may do little to improve it or, more serious, it might be college does little for those entering without adequate verbal ability.

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Among the several studies that are investigating the matter, both theoretically and empirically, I discussed one at the Stanford Institute for the Quantitative Study of Society, which is an interdisciplinary, independent research center at Stanford University. This particular study is directed by Professor Norman H. Nie, the Institute’s director and research professor of political science.

The principal presupposition of this research is the understanding that “verbal ability is the single most important indicator of general intelligence.”

These investigators both work from this understand and document it.

Their research factors in data from a period of seventy years and considers evidence from 100 years. During this period the number of people graduating from college has increased tremendously, and today we just presume a person entering the workforce has graduated from high school. Despite this unprecedented increase in education, today’s graduates have seriously less verbal ability than years ago. Moreover, although more adults can read than at any time in our country’s history, the level of adult verbal ability is at an all-time low. People can read, but they don’t. People who do read don’t understand what they read. They talk, but not intelligibly; they write, but not coherently.

The single most frequent complaint I hear from employers is their applicants and new hires just cannot communicate.

If going to college doesn’t make much difference, why go to college? For more people than is politically wise to admit, the answer is not even to attempt college.

That many such actually do graduate only indicates colleges have lowered standards to the least common denominator. The politically correct thinking is that if everyone has a democratic right to an education, everyone has a civil right to graduate—whether they have learned a thing.

In many colleges, graduation is given for paying tuition and attending classes.

The Stanford researchers are careful to make clear their investigation thus far has focused on verbal ability and that they have not yet explored all other factors or education values.

There are, then, other reasons to seek a college education, and these must be factored into the decision to enroll and whom to graduate.

What I think is most worth stressing here is readiness for education.

Parents are allowed limited influence on the content of their children’s education. The higher children and youth progress through the grades, the more complicated is the education process and the less competent most parents are to be directly involved. The time does come to place reasonable trust in the education professionals, those trained for and dedicated to the job.

It is not too much to suggest, I think, that a child’s education success is fairly well determined by the time the child enters kindergarten. Up to that point, there was nothing the teachers could have done for your children. It was entirely your opportunity and responsibility. Moreover, this is one stage in the total education process in which a normal parent is more successful than professional teachers.

If parents do not succeed in making their children ready for school, there is precious little the elementary school teachers can do for them.

If the elementary school teachers fail to succeed or are unable to succeed consequent to lack of readiness for school, the high school teachers, in turn, will be seriously limited in what they can accomplish.

This is one of several reasons excellent teachers are crucial in the grades. If high school students have been graduated without being educated, college is a waste of time and money.

Parents, ensure you develop your children’s verbal ability to the point of readiness for school. If you do this much, college will take care of itself.