Rigor in Early Education

“I do not think it means what you think it means.”: Read Along Section 8-What If Everybody Understood Child Development?

You know that famous scene in The Princess Bride, when the legendary Spanish swordsman, Inigo Montoya, says, “You keep using that word.  I do not think it means what you think it means.”

That’s often how I feel when I hear the word “rigor” used in early education.

I feel like I have to pause the speaker or writer immediately to ask for their definition before we proceed.  Too often, the word “rigor” is used to explain why schools are ditching recess, packing away the blocks and dramatic play centers, assigning hours of homework, or canceling school plays in order to make sure the kindergarteners have time to focus on getting into college.

I don’t think that automatically equals rigor.

One definition of “rigor” implies the thorough practice of something.  Other definitions include less palatable perspectives, as in “rigor mortis”, or words like “severe” or “extreme”.  So given the variety of synonyms and uses (and my preference to avoid viewing early education through the lens of death or extremity) the one I prefer is thorough.  And yet, sometimes when we hear something passed off in the name of “rigor”, it’s actually quite superficial.

A few possible examples: Drilling.  Testing.  Mouse clicks and touch pads.

These practices address a layer of learning.  But only one.  Rapid recall has its place, but it doesn’t provide a thorough education.  Too often, the word “rigor” has come to imply “less” instead of “more”.  Less play.  Less art.  Less social interaction.

A thorough early childhood education addresses the needs of the whole child.  It applies concepts and discoveries to many different areas and forms.  A thorough education allows children time and space to wonder and to dive deep in the process of actively questioning and exploring and creating understanding together.

“There’s no debate over whether or not learning is important for kids.  The thing is, they’re learning all the time; it’s just unfortunate that learning about such things as oneself, nature, and stress management are not considered as worthy today as are math equations and spelling words.”

“….There’s the contention that the “demands of the 21st century” are responsible for this action.  If ever there was a century demanding imagination and self-expression — both of which are nurtured by the arts — it’s this one.”


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Source: Not Just Cute