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We can never take ourselves “too” seriously in education

Born and raised on Long Island, I was rather saddened to read that a local kindergarten school opted to cancel their end-of-year play, a long-standing tradition in that school. The reason, as cited by the school’s principal and teachers would surprise and confound parents and spark a debate on whether our nation’s push towards Common Core and higher stakes testing is ultimately depriving students of a meaningful education.


Kindergarten-1-225x300.jpg“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.


What confuses me is the rationale. Here, the local school officials cite the greater need to prepare children for college and career readiness. No one can argue with that vision; it is one shared by most educators and parents.

But where I disagree is that the officials believe that college and career readiness begins and ends with reading, writing and problem solving. In fact, I believe the school is ultimately denying their students an opportunity to experience a comprehensive 21st Century learning experience.


The transition from the 3Rs (Reading, Writing and Arithmetic) to the 4Cs (Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking and Creativity) represent the very foundations of the 21st Century Learning Framework.  For more than a decade, P21 has engaged 19 states to ensure such 21st century readiness for students, but New York has not yet joined this movement.


An IDC report from October 2013 may also help shed some light on what’s relevant for “career readiness.” The report surveyed employers, in particular high-growth/high wage occupations. While problem solving – one of the school’s objectives – was #4 on the list, their list overlooked oral -- not just written -- communication (#1), detail orientated (#3) self-motivated (#5). Further, a study from the National Institute of Mental Health reports that 3 out of 4 Americans suffer from speech anxiety.


While on the surface, a kindergarten show may appear trivial, but the real life skills it instills in children is priceless.

  • Reinforces positive experiences for students to speak and perform (oral communication) in front of audiences before speech anxieties become more prevalent in later years
  • Motivates children to express themselves creatively and introduce performance as a skill set and career outcome
  • Provides a teachable experience for students to collaborate on a joint production and, when necessary, resolve any conflicts that arise

Oh, and I almost forgot the most important reason to host such shows….the opportunity for parents and relatives to photograph and video the event and cherish the wonderful memories. 

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About the Author
  • Jim Vanides is responsible for the vision, strategy, design, and implementation of education technology innovation initiatives. His focus is the effective use of technology to create powerful learning experiences that help students around the world succeed. He has been instrumental in launching over 1200 primary, secondary, and higher education projects in 41 countries, including the HP Catalyst Initiative - a 15-country network of 60+ education organizations exploring innovations in STEM(+) learning and teaching. In addition to his work at HP, Jim teaches an online course for Montana State University on the Science of Sound, a masters-level, conceptual physics course for teachers in grades 5 through 8. Jim’s past work at HP has included engineering design, engineering management, and program management in R&D, Manufacturing, and Business Development. He holds a BS in Engineering and a MA in Education, both from Stanford University.
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