Posted in education, schools

Why I oppose radical academic acceleration

We’ve probably all known kids who were very advanced academically. Maybe we were one of those kids. Though the practice has quite declined over the last few decades, research shows that skipping one grade, sometimes even two, holds more positives than negatives when done for the right reasons, with the right students.

But skipping three or more grades and starting college when all the rest of your peers are just entering junior high? I strongly oppose this practice, and roll my eyes so hard when everyone squees all over an alleged child prodigy who was rushed through school and out of childhood.

It’s one thing to skip a single grade, particularly in elementary school, when knowledge gaps aren’t too wide and are easy to catch up on. As is entering kindergarten a year early or starting school at first grade. Skipping THREE grades or more, however, is a lazy, short-sighted solution to a complex problem.

Grade-skipping has fallen out of fashion because we have better options for teaching advanced students now. Enrichment programs. Extra or different assignments. Grouping students by ability instead of grade level (within reason). Small groups within a class. Skipping a grade level in certain subjects. AP classes. Taking classes at a local college.

Additionally, most kids aren’t consistently advanced. A STEM whiz often flounders in the liberal arts, and vice versa. Going from fifth grade to ninth grade level work in those weaker subjects will only increase the problems.

There’s an awful book called The Brainy Bunch: The Harding Family’s Method to College Ready by Age Twelve, by Kip and Mona Lisa Harding. All ten of their kids were rushed through homeschooling curriculum and into college as preteens. Even other homeschoolers have called their method out as nonsense!

Mr. and Mrs. Harding believe education is all about joining the workforce ASAP, not love of learning, developing intellectually and cognitively, discovering a passion for certain topics, or taking time to master subjects. They decided their kids had mastered a subject once the homeschool workbook was finished (after zooming through it!), and they immediately started a new workbook. In other words, fudging transcripts and tricking colleges into accepting them. They even snuck their kids into tests underage!

They also taught their kids with the end goal of taking the SAT or ACT at all of ten years old, and refused to let them participate in any activities or read books not related to college.

What are you supposed to do with yourself after graduating college in your mid-teens? Or getting a master’s at all of eighteen? A lot of these alleged child prodigies spend their time collecting advanced degrees, since child labor is kind of illegal these days. And it takes a lot of money to attend university for 10+ years. A Ph.D. for a grown adult in a single subject is expensive and time-consuming enough.

Even when you’re legally old enough to work, how many law firms or hospitals want to hire a 19-year-old kid with no experience? When you dig deeper, you discover none of them went to prestigious, well-known schools, and that their only job is degree-collecting.

The Hardings are also Quiverfull fundamentalists, and among their works cited is the infamous To Train Up a Child by Michael and Debi Pearl, which advocates beating babies and has been linked to child abuse and murder.

No child, not even the most academically precocious and mature, is ready in any way for college at 12 years old. Even 15 or 16 is too young. Fourteen was the average age historically because education was structured far differently. Now that we teach children at a level more suited to their cognitive development and have high schools, there’s no need to enter university so young.

Education isn’t just about academia or preparing for the workforce. It’s also about social, emotional, mental, psychological, behavioral development. I shouldn’t have to explain why it’s so inappropriate and potentially dangerous for a 12-year-old to be alone among college-aged adults!

Even in primary or secondary school, many kids who were grade-skipped are subject to bullying or ignored by their classmates because they’re so much younger and smaller, and don’t have the same interests. An age difference of 3-5 years isn’t a big deal when you’re all adults, but under 18, it’s a yawning chasm.

Childhood only comes this way once, and then never again. It seems morally wrong to rush children through school at lightning speed and into college by age 12 just so you can brag about them, be on the news, and get ass-pats.