Friday, August 11, 2006

Kindergarten Boot Camp

Kindergarten Boot Camp - Washington Post

Excerpt from The Myth of Acting White, by James C. Collier.

"A sense of novelty rules the start of school. It is similar to how adults feel when they visit a foreign country on vacation. The language is different, the food is different, the customs are different, everything is different and we are very ‘game’ to experience it – after all, this is what we are paying to experience. Children in school are no different. However, what happens when the novelty wears off after a few days, a week, or a month? Adults pack up and go home, usually muttering under our breath how we can’t wait to get back to that which is familiar – and to us, better. This is natural. However, what if we cannot leave? If we remain, to the degree we accept and adapt, we can begin to reach our capacity to contribute to our new environment. If our mindset stays with our former home, our ability to contribute, and gain reward in our new environment, will be limited. We will be non-optimized.

Famed economist Adam Smith wrote about this same dynamic in Theory of Moral Sentiments, published in 1759. In this work, he described a child's transition from home to school as the time where the child enters the 'great school of self-command'. In the new school environment, the child is no longer protected from others by caregivers, whose attention is too often indulgent towards the child's self-focus. Furthermore, the child's classmates are less accomodating, requiring the child to compromise themselves. The wants and needs of the other children, and the greater learning environment establish a stature of importance and influence. Those that accept this need for ‘d├ętente’, do better at school."

James C. Collier


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