According to the ABC news site:
‘Queensland prep students as young as four will be learning how to code from next year as schools fast-track the teaching of digital technology.’
(Me: ‘Digital technology? Four-year-olds?’)
‘An education summit in Brisbane has been told Australia is set to become a world leader in digital learning.
Griffith University education lecturer Professor Jason Zagami said from 2017 all Queensland schools would adopt lessons similar to a program implemented in the UK.’….
"We have to acknowledge that this is the world students now live in," he said.
"We have to prepare them for that world, as much as it might be different to the world we were brought up in.”
"We have to acknowledge they may need different skills that we may not have ourselves."
Professor Zagami said children as young as four would start with "coding lessons" to operate tiny little robots.
"They will be learning about how to create sequences, programming a robot maybe to move around some squares and get to a particular position."
Is this true?
Is it a ghastly joke?
Do the people who have made - and announced - this decision actually have any experience with small (very small!) children?
In my 30+ years of working with small children, I have had the delightful and privileged experience of being involved in many little people’s lives as they soaked up knowledge like little sponges. I have participated in the joy of watching tiny kids leaping over and around word flashcards as they joined in fun games, happily learning to read. I have watched in awe as they quickly accumulated word and number recognition, ultimately leading to them reading books and calculating simple maths.
And I have watched them play and interact with their peers as they learned the art of living.
Children around ages four and five bring with them myriad and varied life experiences: some have enjoyed enriched early years and are ready to read, write and calculate, while others are only just becoming used to seeing books and holding a pencil.
The expectation – no matter how the world has changed – that mini-people of four years of age should be confronted with ‘coding lessons’ as they start school is not only appalling but extremely sad.
On the same day that I read of the teaching of coding to prep children, a friend shared (on Face Book) an article on children’s freedom to play in association with learning.
The article, ‘The Play Deficit – an essay’ (look it up – and yes, it is a couple of years old) quoted American psychologist, Peter Gray, who is research professor at Boston College. He writes the Freedom to Learn blog, and is the author of Free to Learn (2013) and Psychology (2011).
In claiming that it is more playing time that children need, not directed school work, he says:
“Play deprivation is bad for children. Among other things, it promotes anxiety, depression, suicide, narcissism, and loss of creativity. It’s time to end the experiment.”
He deplores the reduction on playing time experienced by today’s children
He writes further: “….the rise in mental disorders among children is largely the result of the decline in children’s freedom. If we love our children and want them to thrive, we must allow them more time and opportunity to play, not less. Yet policymakers and powerful philanthropists are continuing to push us in the opposite direction — toward more schooling, more testing, more adult direction of children, and less opportunity for free play.”
IT IS ALSO MY OPNION that play promotes creativity in children. It is free play that produces an almost accidental passion for learning, coming naturally through experimentation and interaction with others and a wide range of experiences.
People who suggest that you cannot make a living out of creativity are short sighted. Creativity, in all its guises, is what keeps the world spinning. On the other hand, it’s difficult to make a living – or especially a happy living - out of nothing more than learned facts and figures – or being able to recite back what has been fed to you, (via rote learning or computer programming).
As far as communicating and social skills go, to me, social play is the great teacher of fairness, empathy and the art of negotiation. Not to mention the acquisition of emotion managing skills.
Sure, I accept that in this age of computers it is essential that little people are familiar with technology, but first things first, I say. Let them PLAY.
All in all – give me little kids exposed to lots of free and creative play as opposed to the ability to code and program a robot any day.
Fast-track the teaching of digital technology to prep children?
Be warned: What I am about to write will annoy people; it will be considered politically incorrect or sexist, but I will persist.
I consider kids to be short changed in this modern age.
I am not going to say ‘some children’ or ‘many children’ or ‘most children’ or ‘a few children’. You can adjust the amount of kids that you think fit my opinion piece to your own estimation. But I am saying that I consider kids to be currently getting a raw deal.
Let’s start with their very first days.
Nowadays, after giving birth, mothers are sent home after the shortest time possible. There is little space for nursing that baby; for cuddling him close, for gently talking to him, kissing him, getting to know him intimately in mother’s own time, without interruptions.
Here’s an alternative:
Mother and baby rest in hospital – for at least a week - and longer if a C-section is involved.
As their lives combine in a calm togetherness, mother learns to breast feed baby and baby thrives in relaxed surroundings.
Call it ‘bonding’ if you like, but whatever it is, it is essential for the well-being of both mother and baby.
Even, dare I say, especially for baby.
And it's only a week!
So, in this better alternative:
Once home, the mother does not worry about housework or the way she looks. She does not worry about her ‘lost’ figure. Instead she hunkers down with her baby and in a comfortable and cosy chair –or even bed – they cuddle and coo together and baby feeds.
No TV, no mobile phone texting…just mother and baby idolising each other.
And the baby loves this.
That’s a good start to life.
Not so long ago I listened into a conversation between two young mothers, who were discussing (of all things) breast pumps. While one mum spoke of her efforts with a hand held machine, the other mum suggested that a ‘plug-in’ pump was better as you could just turn it on and it extracted the milk. (A bit like in a dairy farm).
That’s NOT breast feeding. That’s harvesting milk to allow someone else to feed you child – with a bottle. There is a vast difference.
Why the ‘need’ for new mothers to be off to the gym to regain their ‘pre-baby’ shape. What for? WHY is this so important?
For the off-to-gym-mother = less mother’s milk, less cuddle-close time and already a diminished bonding – not to mention a weird (peer-pressured) attitude.
And this is just the very start of my whinge!
So on to toddler stage and beyond, including those execrable tubes of ‘food’ that little ones are seen consuming instead of proper food.
And disposable nappies that are worn up until school age, as it’s easier than teaching a small child to use a toilet.
Little kids aren’t that stupid.
Then there’s the rarity of family meal times around the table.
And the missing bedtime stories; gentle story books read to sleepy children by parents not stressed out by the need to work long hours to keep up the money flow.
Stories that may or may not be the old-fashioned Winnie-The-Pooh and Peter Rabbit, books, but sweet and gentle nevertheless.
Instead we have the ghastly but apparently compulsory, movie-going to see ‘Frozen’ , with the accompanying merchandise and the seeming necessity for singing the appalling, ‘Let it Go’.
Why this meaningless follow-the-leader? Does no one have any original thoughts any more?
And why are little kids wearing Superhero costumes (boys) or net fairy outfits (girls) instead of normal clothing? More follow-the-cheap-commercialised-leader?
Other things that upset me:
Back ‘yards’ too small for decent ball games.
The after school mug of Milo and home baked goodies replaced with shop bought ‘treats'.
Soft drinks considered suitable everyday drink for kids.
Single mothers with 5 or 6 children, crying poor.
The considered absolute necessity for both parents to work continuously.
Okay, call me a grumpy old woman. Call me old-fashioned. But, having enough time to observe children now, I am saddened by what I see.
Planning to bake a raspberry pudding last week, I baulked at paying eight dollars for a small punnet of fresh raspberries and sought out tinned varieties as replacement. Finding no tinned raspberries I settled for a tin of blackberries.
Imagine my surprise when reading the information on the tin, to discover that these blackberries had come all the way from Italy.
Italian blackberries shipped out to Australia in tins!
No Aussie blackberries available, apparently.
It was then that I realised that in Australia blackberries are classified as a noxious weed and are therefore (hopefully and literally) a bit thin on the ground.
This made my memory slip back to childhood blackberry-gathering days, before the death sentence had been passed on Australian grown blackberries.
Some decades ago, at a particular time of each year, many families did as we did and went ‘black-berrying’.
(We loved blackberries – just eating them fresh off the bush or waiting until mothers had made a blackberry pie or grandmothers had turned them into blackberry jam).
We searched out blackberry patches wherever we could, which sometimes necessitated a drive out into the country-side to find productive bushes (or is it brambles?).
Once we had discovered a crop of delicious blackberries – they had to be almost black in colour – we would pick and eat, and pick and eat, until our fingers and lips were purple and our little billy-cans or buckets were full of fat, partially squished berries.
If enough containers were not available, Grandma taught us how to roll and fold pages of newspapers to make upturned-steeple-shaped holders.
This reminds me that the practical use of newspapers was once a constant. Newspapers were used for all sorts of things, from wrapping fish and chips, bundling up all manner of produce, wrapping most household refuse and so much more …………
But that’s all another story.
Back to the Italian blackberries: It seems incredible that tinned blackberries travel so many kilometres across the world. Isn’t that an unnecessary waste of resources in many ways?
But it seems that ‘sensible’ no longer works in commerce.
That’s just how things are now.
Meanwhile, if you’re wondering, the blackberry pudding was delicious.
But perhaps would have been even better made from local fruit (?)
Information (below) taken from the Department of Primary Industries web site:
‘Recognised as one of the worst weeds in Australia, blackberry was declared a Weed of National Significance in 1999. Blackberries belong to a large genus (group of species) called Rubus which includes other berry plants…..’
‘Blackberry has been estimated to result in a loss of production and cost of control of between $95.1 million and $102.8 million in Australia. In comparison, the aggregated benefits of blackberry have been estimated to be approximately $1.5 million per annum, indicating that the negative impacts of blackberry vastly outweigh the positive impacts (CRC, 2006).’
I choose to comment on social issues and write creatively on a variety of subjects - for a variety of audiences.