Thursday, August 01, 2013

Ramadan Reflection Day 22: Stealing Childhoods

Photo by Ashiful Haque
Bismillah.

Yesterday I learned something personally disturbing in my psychology class. Apparently, there is such a thing as a school for kids around 2 1/2 to 3 years of age. It's called junior kindergarten.

It's the same as regular schooling: sit quietly at a desk, listen attentively to the teacher talking in front of the class, walk in line, stay in line, and do this for about 9 hours a day.

As soon as heard my professor explained to me what pre-kindergarten was, I couldn't digest it. Almost immediately I feel that the whole concept is abnormal. In fact, I was in Abnormal Child Psychology class.

The idea of schooling a child that young irks me. Why? Because schooling doesn't necessarily celebrate the freedom of childhood. A child, especially as young as age 2 1/2 to 3, needs to explore the world. Childhood is a crucial time for play. Play is work for a child; through play a child makes sense of the world and himself/herself.

They should be outside, not inside the classroom. Especially not for 9 hours a day. Can you imagine being a 3-year-old child and being told to sit down quietly at a desk while being around a bunch of other 3-year-olds? A child can't even sit quietly for 10 minutes by himself/herself, let alone with another child close by.

It seems to me that we have imprisoned the child. Forgive me for my choice of word, but I can't think of another word to best describe it. We have put young children in prison, and the irony of that is this: the children aren't the criminals.

We are.

Why would anyone put a 3-year-old child in school? Well, it seems like we want to "prepare" the kids for the "real world". We are prepping a 3-year-old for college, for university, and for work. We want to bring out the genius in them as soon as possible and push them so that they're ahead of the race. Kids shouldn't be worry about that at their fragile age. They should be worried about how to tie their shoes, how to use the toilet, or the difference between a cat and a dog.

I do believe kids are natural geniuses, but you can't force the genius out. Even if you force it out, more often than not the genius is buried deeper. The perfect analogy is the analogy of planting a seed. You can't force the tree out of that seed. The only thing you can do is provide the seed with the right condition.

A school is not a right condition for a young child.

Letting a kids be kids is what our Prophet taught us. His grandson was riding his back while he was making prostration and the Prophet waited until his grandson finished playing. The Prophet advised us to start teaching and encouraging the kids to start praying at age 7. Despite the fact that prayer is the pillar of Islam, the Prophet didn't force it on a young child.

Everything has its own time with its own wisdom.

Childhood is the time for play. The wisdom in that play allows them to explore their world; to understand it better and to understand themselves better.

Interesting fact that I learned in class: children think more than adults. Why? Because they have a lot more to figure out. We might think that they're doing nothing, but they are doing everything. If they were cartoon characters, you would see smoke coming out from their ears.

Allow children to play. Don't steal it from them.

Note: This pre-kindergarten thing varies across situations. I don't want to generalize. This article refers to the pre-kindergarten concept explained to me by my professor.