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This is behind the classroom door a series of discussions produced by WFIU Af-Am and the College of Education at Northern Illinois University and distributed by the national educational radio network. Our topic for this program is preschool education of children. Here is the moderator Dean Robert after top. This is number 10. On a series of conversations which we are and titling behind the classroom door and the present presentation and preschool education of children. You know it is quite interesting to know that some people maintain when our society becoming more complex than ever before and it won't be too many years before the schools will be responsible for the education of the people of this country from the cradle to the grave. And every year we seem to be extending further and further the formal education of the people of the nation. Well preschool has.
At least two general meanings. Preschool of course preschool education much of it takes place in the home. Informally in most instances but a very significant and very important in the life of any child in fact I would hazard to say that the most significant educative years in the life of the child are those years spent right in the home with the family. On the other hand another definition has arisen for preschool education and this pertains to the formal type of education supplied by the community or in some cases by a private school which encompasses the years from about three through five and we call these nursery schools and we call the fifth year the five year of the five year old as kindergarten and the latter of course has been in
effect in a way for many many years. Now it seems to me that we ought to give a little thought Dr. Laughlin and Dr. Leonard Do the impact of the home on these children. The preschool years in that broad sense. Do begin by referring to the work of Jean Piaggio of France in PR Jay's taxonomy of developmental periods at this stage of development is called the period of pre operational long. It's characterized by such things as egocentrism and action ridden. What years Doctor lawful Loughlin would this compass would want to research would show with that these. Characteristics would occur in the child between the ages of two or three to five.
These characteristics have implications for education in this period of growth egocentrism would imply that the child cannot take the role of another. At this age he feels no need to justify his reasonings to others nor to look for possible contradictions on the part of others in regard to action ridden the child tends to operate with the concrete rather than the abstract. I suppose every parent is aware of this because we see children fundamentally just reacting naturally and in a self-centered way if you will do is invite to their environment. Yes Piaggio uses the term real as that is. Things are what they appear to be. Now when you consider this it would imply that the child needs to be shown and to feel that his family wants him and that his home is a
good safe place to belong to a good safe home doesn't necessarily mean that it's a place where there is never any on happiness never an outburst on the part of the parents or the children. In fact the locational help the explosion by a child or by a parent. May help to get the home running more satisfactorily. If a child realizes that his parents are not always 100 percent perfect he is helped to accept his own imperfection. These years you mention you should 4:58 4:58 who don't want every art to Father these are kind of transitional and learning years aren't the just move ahead and become a little less egocentric. Isn't this part of the deal that he learns not to be quite as self-centered and realistic as you say.
Yes I was approached 5 and was moving into the next period of development that it would we would hope that this egocentrism had pretty well disappeared. Of course there into individual differences in regard to these developmental periods as well as any other characteristics in the child. Some moved through this period more rapidly than others and others take longer. And parents don't know about Ph. What should what about parents you suppose are just doing what comes naturally to a well-balanced parent and his relationship with his children and setting the best environment. Well Piaggio feels that undue pressures should not be applied to the to the child you have and do learn to rapidly grow up too rapidly. I mean while he thinks that the intellectual development will well proceed at the child's own rate of development and each child
has his own rate of development then it is unwise for the home parents and society to put on due pressures upon this child Dr. Leonard. As an elementary education specialist does this show up when children go to school. The kind of home environment has been provided by the parents. Oh yes I think it's very interesting that as you study the movements the more formalized. That's a nursery school and kindergarten move movements in this country that. There there definitely is a difference between a child a child who has been let's say in a kindergarten and moves on into first grade. Yeah but what about the home impact a parent who has these qualities that Dr. Laughlin is describing as desirable a feeling of establishing security and love and letting this child interact
with his environment in a pretty egocentric way to start with. But then he moves on from the informal years at home into whatever he moves on into depending on the community where he lives could be into nursery school or kindergarten. I would assume this makes quite a difference in the child. Yes I think so Andy. Today we have the Head Start program that has been started for many communities for the children who haven't had that say a rich home background that they haven't had the attention and the end of it show horribly bottom head start. These government these are government sponsored projects aren't they mostly for the inner city. Yes. And and by the inner city we mean the children who come from a cultural background that's aided where there have been disadvantaged in what year. How early. All children go to the
Head Start program three three and four year olds It started with the four year olds and in other words they're working down. But I would small test our programs of course would take four year olds and three year olds. I think that many times the grown up does not realize home with three year old four year old or five year old child is. Gaining just by ordinary living and I don't think grown ups realize how much a learning a child is actually doing and how hardy at the work of just getting new york ordinary things learning and learning to speak learning to talk and Leo are getting no one sumps. It was an era when parents didn't take their children with them. You remember this I think it's changing now. I think young parents today now tend to take their children along when they go visit friends and they let their children interact with the environment and with adults in a way that wasn't true few years
ago. This is good. I should think to give them some of these natural learning experiences. But I think we recognize today at every level starting at the national level and working down that that children need a rich environment. And you might say from the time that they're from the cradle in a sense and and that's why in many communities they started these Head Start programs to give these children a richer a richer environment a richer preschool environment. I've often been impressed by the differences in children on the first day of school whether that first day was going to garner first grade. Some children come into the first day of school with fear and trembling they're weeping. Sometimes their mothers are we being and others come in and they're secured they managed to move ahead with the activities there or they they make friends quickly. A lot of this is perhaps related to those early preschool years in the home don't you think so Dr. Lawson.
Yes. Dr. Leonard mentioned the Head Start program now in my understanding of these programs is that they supplement the home that is deficient in proper child training. That. A child can attain this type of training in a home where where parents are present and parents are interested and praising a child's achievements and not demanding more of him than he has yet capable of doing. Some people would maintain that the American home has changed so much that with regard to most homes a child ought to be taken out of the home while there may be working or busy and father is not home and there somehow or other way of life with chores to do. Grandmother and Grandfather being in the home makes such a different environment that may be in our civilized way they ought to move into a kind of
formal education. At 3 years of age for all homes because of this. It's interesting in studying the history of these massive prekindergarten programs that we oftentimes think of as nurses call nursery school programs that back in the 1930s during And during the Depression Great Depression. That there was a massive movement towards nursery schools in this country nursery schools for the for the four year old and for the three year old. And then they sort of die after the depression is over. We moved out away from that movement. Dr. Leonard don't you think one of the things that help those move away from that that movement was the type of society in which we are now living. You realize that at one time families tended to be much larger than they are now. That child had many brothers many sisters and he got
this type of social interaction which he needed right at the home. Then why the well the need for economizing and having smaller families and only child for example might to get this type of social training the. Parents just had to rely on the on the nursery school. But the nursery school is flourishing know only where I think it is subsidized in some areas there are private nursery schools largely to serve the needs of the home where the mother is working. And yet I believe there's a trend don't you. Dr. Leonard for nursery schools and particularly kindergartens which have been existing so long kindergarden is for five year olds essentially isn't it. Yes and they've been in operation a long time haven't they the history of these things must be oh yes we have to end it yes we've got kindergartens of course
for many many years and in many schools throughout the country now. It's interesting though that at the present time that they say that only about 50 percent of the schools in the United States have kindergartens for the five year old. And for many years school districts that had kindergartners didn't get reimbursed for these kindergartens from the state level they had to absorb the costs. That's right. And now of course it has different as a matter of fact I think with the last legislature in Illinois that passed the law that said that in 1007 by 1970 every school district in the state of Illinois had to provide a kindergarten for five girls. And many people of course don't don't realize that if they live in a community where they've had good Jinnah gardens in their schools for years they think that most schools have them or all have them and actually like I said about 50 percent do not live there in an entire state where kindergartens do not exist. That's right and you know we take them for granted where we have them.
But I'm convinced in my own mind that kindergartens and pre-kindergarten programs are here to stay. I don't think that we're going to go through a period again where they go let's say fade out of the picture because and it's interesting that going back to this Great Depression that the big reason for having nursery schools at that time for the preschool child was to give employment to the unemployed the teachers. That's right you know it wasn't really as far as I can tell it wasn't because the children they felt the children needed it. But it was to give employment and then World War Two came along and they had to reopen let's say the old nursery schools. This time for a completely different reason this time in order to enable the mothers to work. You see take care of the children during the daytime in the nursery school so the mothers could go to the factories and work.
Well kindergarten which is existed so long in some communities has different objectives doesn't it. Then a regular first second or third grade class seems to me that this was for Abel and test a lot See that had much to do with establishing the mood in the philosophy of the kindergarden. That's right and of course today. The people who really know what kindergarden should be like are trying to establish let's say a junior first grade they're not trying to make Junior first grades out of them. Then I know the national educational policies Commission about a year ago came out in favor of kindergarten programs and nursery school programs and they made a statement in their public publicising that they put out that time that that kindergartens were not to be focused on reading and writing and arithmetic but instead their goal should be for such things as a promotion of curiosity growth
in language development and that type of a stably ship establishment of learning habits working together and self-discipline. And some of these things that are necessary for the next years. Right. Yes. Well I suppose some harm could be done if we misused preschools and kindergarten is quite a move I think at the present time to teach children to read and to do mathematical things that. Previously we didn't think they should be doing and I believe research still supports the idea that it is wrong to introduce young children to these difficult things for which they're not ready intellectually or emotionally or even visibly. In some cases I'm sure the Piaggio would agree with that but on the other hand I I think it also feel that if a child just naturally took to these things with no undue pressures on the part of the parents that he would die he'd go along with that.
Problem with that is a good deal during the songwriting and the wide range of individual differences among children sometimes we look at chronological age as being too significant whereas a 5 year old child could be capable of learning to read. When most 5 year old child certainly wouldn't be capable of reading. One problem we have is that many kindergarten teachers and many nursery school teachers are not adequately prepared to do the job and as a result they mainframes Dr. Laughlin they maybe for example tried to carry out programs and not recognizing the individual differences in these children. And as a result they might do some damage now. Colleges and universities at the present time are developing programs for the preparation of nursery school teacher immersion real differences I'm sure. Back in the 1000 late 40s and 50s these programs were actually
curtailed in many teacher training institutions and other colleges and universities in the country. But today there are because I would say of the emphasis at the national level. There is a movement towards the establishment of programs for the training of these teachers. Some something we've lacked in let's say in the 1980s. I think it's generally recognized that a child of this age needs the stimulation that comes from. Being with other children of this age and he's ready and eager to branch out and he should be away from home and away from mother for a bit. This is the time when children can learn and develop in the best in the company of other children. As you say under the professional supervision of child development experts and in interesting and pleasant surroundings seems to mean the
home is a richer place. At least the typical or average home and perhaps even some of the sub standard homes if it has a television set you can hardly see a home without a television antenna. Television has had a tremendous impact in giving to children before they go to school. A wide range of experiences and I think that this has been pretty well established that children come to school more able to absorb new concepts because the impact of television that's that's an interesting feature studies show that this initial impact upon a child who has two or three years of age is tremendous. I can recall in our old own home with four children that as each of them reached the age of two or three they would spend as much time in front of that television set as they possibly could.
But as they developed and grew older without any pressures on the part of the parents they they gradually just outgrew sitting before a television set and viewing the program. It just seemed as all that television brought to them a new world and they expanded their horizons in these early stages. But then when they got to be 4 5 6 this table your needs for socialization on their own they just developed other other interests. Remember all the fears we had about television when it first came in of course were still critical of the quality of many pro programmes but this prevails for the books or the magazine articles or the movies or even the stage plays or musical productions that our young people enjoy or experience. The impact has been good. Generally speaking on children the impact of television and all of these enriching devices Well
I don't think that. Viewing of television is something that should be of overly concern to parents that the fact that children want to watch it shows that there is a need there for some sort of development. And as this need is met the children will just naturally on their own cease watching television so much. You know there's a psychological principle that comes to mind here the psychologists call it whole heartedness and gradation and this seems to characterize human psychology. A person gets developing one skill or an interesting throws himself into it wholeheartedly and this is seen to be typical of children particularly but adults to an adult will get an interest in photography let's say and he throws himself into this and thinks about it and buys expensive equipment. But gradually it tapers off into a more reasonable proportion of his time and his energy and his enthusiasm. And this is true of
little children just learning to run. Of all was enjoyed watching little boys see a band concert if we have or had band concerts or similar fairs they run and run and run because they're practicing this skill. Gradually it tapers off into something else whole hearted mission gradation and I think many of our fears about television and anything else as far as that goes are unfounded in that this is just natural and gradually tapers off. One of the big advantages of the nursery school and the kid in our garden I think is that they are run by child development experts and that they know what characteristics and what habits are common among children of these ages. And as a result they are less tense about what they see children doing. Whereas parents might be overly concerned about something a child is doing which the parent feels he should not be be doing while an expert knows is this this is just characteristic of that
child. For example fear of the dark. Many many parents will say that and become concerned about their child because they have difficulty at night when they put him to bed because he wants a light. I recall such situations in our home and I recall how a grandmother settle that by providing one of our children with a flashlight as birthday as a birthday present but that that solved the problem. Well I think the interaction of children with children in the nursery school is a big thing too. And even though they had they engage in what is known as parallel play they all play at or interact with some kind of material almost by themselves but they're next to somebody else doing something comparable. This is the beginning the first step uncooperative socialization. The next step of course is to play together and we see this progressing as we go through the years into the more formal type of programs.
And we've also learned a lot about children of this age and programs for school that say inertia school programs for children at this stage in recent years for example the Head Start program has only been with us for about two years now. And when it started it was only a summer program. Now it's it's growing and eventually they say it might become a year round program in many communities and many schools. Dr. Lerner do you feel there will come a time when the Head Start will be available to all children just the few which it serves at the present time. No I think there will come a time when approach there will be a definite program let's say for four year olds in the schools as same as we have for a program for five year olds now and they might even taking the taking the characteristics of the present nursery school. Yes. What should be accomplished Dr. Leonard. Let's assume that there's going to be an increase in these preschool formal preschool programs operated
by the schools public schools. What should we accomplish in these preschool programs would you say as contrasted to what we hope to accomplish in first second and third grade. Well it would. Children let's say learning to to work together although they find of course in these programs that that the activities must be highly individualized for these young children. But they can provide many many experiences for them in terms of language development in terms of helping the child with his health for example. We're only getting a start on this today but these programs go into much more than just let's say formalized education programs that they deal with with the health of the child including nutrition. Check out visual effects. Yeah yeah. They find all of those problems.
Well Dr. Leonard then the effects of these programs is not confined to the child. Him south but it would reach right into the home and have an effect on the home the parents and all others concerned with the child's welfare especially if we get the parents to come to the schools and to see what's going on while I think we have at least touched upon some of the aspects of the preschool education of children. Noting that a very significant part of this is that which takes place in the home under the guidance of the parents but that there seems to be a real movement to establish nursery schools or what might be comparable to nursery schools and more kindergartens so that young children can acquire some of the very necessary habits that will lead them on smoothly into the even more formalized education of the first second and third grade behind the classroom door produced by WFIU Af-Am in cooperation with the College of Education at Northern Illinois University each week
focuses its attention on one of the been a challenging aspects of public school education. The program is moderated by Dr. Robert F. top dean of the College of Education at Northern Illinois University. Today's guests were Dr. Lloyd Leonard head of the department of elementary education and Dr. Leo Laughlin head of the Department of Administration and services. Next week's topic will be the 12 month school. I'm Fred piled and this program is distributed by the actual educational radio network.
Behind the Classroom Door
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Behind the Classroom Door is a radio series from WNIU-FM about education in the United States. In each episode, faculty from the Northern Illinois University College of Education address specific issues related to public school education and operation. The program is produced in cooperation with Northern Illinois University and distributed by the National Educational Radio Network.
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