The following letter was sent to the parents and guardians of kindergarteners at the Harley Avenue Primary School in Elwood, which is in Suffolk County, New York. The letter explains that the school’s annual kindergarten show has been canceled. It is signed by the interim principal and several other individuals, at least some of whom are teachers. According to the organization that posted it on Facebook and Twitter, the letter’s authenticity has been confirmed by a parent in the school district. I also googled the names of the signatories, and several of them appear to be legitimate. (UPDATE: The letter’s authenticity has been definitely confirmed by The Washington Post.)
The letter reads as follows:
Dear Kindergarten parents and guardians:
We hope this letter serves to help you better understand how the demands of the 21st century are changing schools and, more specifically, to clarify misconceptions about the Kindergarten show. It is most important to keep in mind that this issue is not unique to Elwood. Although the movement toward more rigorous learning standards has been in the national news for more than a decade, the changing face of education is beginning to feel unsettling for some people. What and how we teach is changing to meet the demands of a changing world.
The reason for eliminating the Kindergarten show is simple. We are responsible for preparing children for college and career with valuable lifelong skills and know that we can best do that by having them become strong readers, writers, coworkers, and problem solvers. Please do not fault us for making professional decisions that we know will never be able to please everyone. But know that we are making these decisions with the interests of all children in mind.
I have no idea what prompted this decision. I do know that thinking and talking about five-year-old boys and girls in this way—”We are responsible for preparing children for college and career with valuable lifelong skills and know that we can best do that by having them become strong readers, writers, coworkers, and problem solvers”—is the very definition of a sick society. This letter, as its signatories acknowledge, is just a symptom.
Update (1 am)
Just in case there’s any confusion, I want to be clear. I didn’t post this letter in order to attack the individuals who wrote or signed it. I have a tremendous amount of respect for teachers , as anyone who follows this blog knows. As I said above, I have no idea what prompted this decision or what particular constraints these teachers are facing. Knowing the kind of pressure the teachers of my own daughter, who’s also in kindergarten here in Brooklyn, are facing, I can well imagine these teachers not being able to reconcile the expectations of these new standards with the demands of organizing a kindergarten show. There are only so many hours in the day. As I said, this letter, and this decision, is just a symptom of a larger problem: school in capitalist America.
That said, the lead signatory on this letter is the school principal, who does have to accept some responsibility for this decision. Principals are supposed to lead, not merely follow. And rather than voice any discontent with the national developments, this letter affirms and owns those developments. That, it seems to me, is a problem.