Recently, in Diane Ravitch’s blog, I read a truly disturbing letter from a teacher who had quit her job at Success Academy, a charter school, because she couldn’t “in good conscience” be the teacher they wanted her to be. And what kind of teacher was that? Apparently, the kind who “didn’t hold high enough expectations” for her four- and five-year-olds – because she “couldn’t get them to walk in two silent, straight, militaristic lines with bubbles in their mouths and their hands glued to their sides.” Nor could she be watchful enough of “’defiant’ children on the carpet – that is, children not sitting on their bottoms with their backs tall and their hands locked in their laps.”
I expect that anyone who works with and loves young children would do a double-take, as I did, upon reading those words. Indeed, I posted the link on Facebook and found an overwhelming consensus of dismay. Surely these couldn’t be the expectations for four- and five-year-olds! Truly, they shouldn’t be the expectations of any children – or, in my opinion, of anyone other than those in training for the military.
But it gets even worse. Success Academy additionally requires that children will “stand like a soldier, … sit with a bubble in your mouth and your hands locked, you will do all of your work neatly and silently, you will ‘silent laugh’ and ‘silent cheer’ when you find things funny or exciting, you will transition from your seats to the carpet ‘swiftly, safely, and silently,’ and if you don’t, you’ll do it again until it’s perfect, even if that means missing recess or blocks time.”
My stomach and my heart hurt when I read those words. Silent laughs and cheers from little children, who by nature are meant to be full of life and laughter? And the expectation of perfection? That’s not only horrifying but harmful....