Real Education Starts Young

This kind of follows my previous post about community college writers, but when I got back my third 100% on an exam last night, the second in this course, I was surprised at the people around me:

“Did you pass this time?”
“Naw…you?”
“Yeah, I got 20 [out of 30] this time.”

“What did you get on this one?”
“Another C.”
“Yeah, me too.”

“Did you do better? Get a B?”
“Yeah, B minus.”
“I got a B this time, too!”

“Damnit!”
“What? D’you fail again?”
“Yeah! ::enter terrible words here::”

The class is Psychology 101, an introduction to the study of psychology. We have discussed the scientific method, various developmental theories, language, the senses, and therapy. I knew very little of this information entering the class, but have managed to get a 100% on both of our exams. There are probably other people in the class who are doing well, but I guess we aren’t the ones discussing our grades.

Education starts before we enter school.

I think that the fact that education begins long before school, starting from birth, is becoming more and more apparent, especially with the upcoming elections leading to some, although not nearly enough, discussion about bettering our early education system. As it stands, we have Head Start, and No Child Left Behind, but they don’t do nearly enough (or much of anything, really) and don’t start soon enough.

I’m so pleased with what Barack Obama has to say about our current state of a huge educational gap and his plans to implement an early education plan. One of his goals is to make sure that parents can read: a huge step in the right direction for children to learn properly. If your parents don’t read, there is a very slim chance that you are going to have the proper mechanisms at your disposal to learn to read at a young age.

I took an introductory sociology course at Smith my final semester there, and one of the topics was the divide that occurs in the first three years of a child’s life. This divide has been attributed, in part, to the number of words that are spoken to a child. It’s simple, really: the more words that were spoken to a child, the higher the child’s IQ and the better they were able to do in school. Unfortunately, and for numerous reasons, children of parents of low-socioeconomic status do not hear nearly as many words throughout their first three years of life. I cannot find the article, but I remember being absolutely shocked at the difference in the number of words that a child of low socio-economic status heard in comparison to a child of a higher socio-economic status.

Now, with all that said, I fully understand why my psychology course is so easy for me while most of the other people in the class are struggling. This course is at a community college, where, for the most part, the people attending have gone to public schools, come from less wealthy families, and have been brought up with all of the conditions that come with those things. From the beginning I had a “head start”–my mother is not only literate, but also she has a PhD and is extremely intellectual. She read to me from a young age, and, maybe even more importantly, talked to me. She used “big” words, helped me improve my grammar and vocabulary at a young age (and no, I’m certainly not a perfect example of proper grammar and using an excellent vocabulary) and made sure that I did my homework, challenging me to actually learn, not just memorize.

I’m lucky, and because of that I don’t struggle with certain types of college courses, or understanding a lot of the things that are around me. When we discussed projection, I already knew what the word meant, so I didn’t have to learn that. When we started studying child development, I already could comprehend a lot of it because I grew up paying attention to children. Our discussion of various types of therapy was completely new material, yet I could think of numerous examples to compound that knowledge. Things that I had heard discussed by the people around me, or things that I had discussed during conversations with friends and family, all were able to attribute to my understanding of the course material. It is only by being around intellectual people, or being an intellectual yourself, that you are given the opportunity to learn outside of course work.

If everyone in that class had been given the real head start that I was given, I’m sure that a far smaller number of them would be struggling. There is, no doubt, a level of born intelligence that helps, but that born intelligence must be nurtured. I am not a highly intelligent person. I am smarter than average (some days I don’t believe that!), but have just been given the right opportunities to thrive.

I hope that I give Alexander the right opportunities, and that he is able to thrive with whatever level of intelligence he has been born with.

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One thought on “Real Education Starts Young

  1. Hi Allison,

    I just saw your comment on SV mom blog. I am more than happy to share our private school hunting experience if you are interested in looking for a private school for your DA. We live in Mountain View which is right in the middle of the SV. Our DS loves the school he attends and we cannot be happier.

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