The Tennessean published an editorial today by Sister Sandra Smithson, co-founder of the Smithson-Craighead Academy, Nashville's first charter school, that lays out the benefits of pre-kindergarten education better than many articles that I’ve read.
It’s hard to believe that some people have rallied against Gov. Phil Bredesen’s efforts to make pre-K a universal resource for children in the state. Those who are against the governor’s plan to educate the very young say there’s a lack of evidence that pre-K programs show significant academic achievement.
Smithson points to benefits in children’s behavior, expression and knowledge after enrolling in pre-K classes. It’s a wonder that she would even have to do this. She says pre-K teaches children:
To listen, wait their turn, obey an adult, speak quietly, ask permission, work on projects, make minor sacrifices and trust others.
To ask questions before they take inappropriate action and to negotiate instead of hitting others. Children learn to speak so others will understand them, which prevents frustration and sometimes violence.
To value books and the words they contain that unlock worlds of experience unavailable to the children any other way. Children get a whole year of words, stories, numbers and experiences while their brains are in the highest phase of their ability to receive and retain knowledge.
She also points out that many of the popular PRIVATE schools in Nashville offer pre-K classes. No kidding. Don’t those who have the financial resources to give their children private education want their children to learn as much as they can, as soon as possible?
What makes people think that others who have less money want less for their children? You would think that a pre-K program in the state would be a no brainer. After all, as Project Reflect reports, 51 percent of third graders in Tennessee read below grade level, and some states use fourth grade failure rates to estimate and plan for future prison bed needs (a fact we’ve been hearing for decades now.) Of course we need pre-K classes for young people--this is painfully obvious.
"Pre-K enables unattended-to and under-educated children to overcome deficient backgrounds and enter kindergarten ready for kindergarten," Smithson wrote in the Tennessean editorial. “If our rationale for dropping public pre-K is because some programs are not effective, then there goes the nation’s entire [public] school system,” she wrote.
Why then are so many people against educating ALL OF OUR CHILDREN early in their lives when Tennessee’s dropout rate is more than 40 percent? Does the answer point to what Sidney Poitier said in this month’s Vanity Fair magazine?
Reporter Gasper Tringale: “ What is it that you most dislike?”
Poitier: The callousness with which poor people are deceived, ignored and dismissed.
Read Smithson’s entire editorial here.
Read the Vanity Fair article featuring Sidney Poitier here.