One major flaw with current education practice is that the people running our school systems don’t not recognize that human diversity also equates to differing rates of development. By diversity, I’m talking about the differences between all children, and not anything to do with ethnicity or culture. For the record, I don’t think race exists. I will explain this further in a dedicated blog. I digress. Schools and school officials create standards and expectations that reflect a judgement that all students develop at the same rate, uniformly, and that therefore all children should be capable, and in fact learn or understand deep concepts on advanced topics, by the arbitrary age of eighteen. Mind you, humans have evolved and developed over many generations where the age of person had no relevance to their place in the world. Prior to the written codification of laws, most of human history, there was no age standards for things like education, voting, or permission to do things like work. Sure people have understood coming of age rituals and training for adulthood for as long as humans have lived socially, but it was never a rigid system. Now schools have a child’s pathway to independence and successful adulthood as the end goal of education by the age of eighteen. We all know this is crazy and the world does not work that way, and that some children take longer than others to fully develop. Parents know, inherently, that their child may not get some skill set at the right age range, like walking or talking, but some children develop early, and some take longer. Genetics and environment, such as nutrition and security, all determine a child’s early development pattern. We all can see that girls tend to develop faster than boys, and thus they are academically ready for most school related skill sets as the right age, at a higher rate than boys. Boys tend to take longer to develop.
This has tragic results for society. The arbitrary age of eighteen, as a fully grown and responsible adult, is fiction. Kids who develop at a slower rate, might be just as capable and intelligent, but might not reach their potential Most parents know they have to support their child for a few years past the age of eighteen to help them until they are ready to be independent. Some students need longer than eighteen years to complete their course of study, and some are allowed to do this with a special education designation. Using the arbitrary age of eighteen as the endpoint of school planning, means that schools have also crammed as much possible in the twelve years they have to teach any given student. Students that develop at a slower rate, who may eventually have been quite skilled and capable, often give up and feel defeated leading to increased risk of acting out and anti social behaviors. Students that develop quickly are considered advantaged, and given better teachers and preferential treatment with honors courses. They have many paid after school activities available because they, “get good grades and are good kids.” Sometimes all the child needs is some medication, sometimes they lack structured or decent parents, and mostly they feel underappreciated and are labeled names like under performing, below grade level, special needs… and so forth. Ask any principal or special education teacher, and they will most likely tell you that special education can be a trap for students to under perform to their potential, and they may never realize their potential because they might not be ready until their early or mid twenties.
There is wide range of sizes and rates of development for boys and girls. We do know that girls graduate high school and college at a higher rate than boys, and there are more women enrolling in college than men. I will use myself as an example. I was put into kindergarten at age five. I graduated high school when I was seventeen. I was able to get through, but I had some challenges because I was socially immature, and because I was undersized and less developed, by a year, than my fellow classmates. I was lucky to develop somewhat early, and I was able to start excelling in school when I got to middle school. It took me a while to adjust and catch up. By ninth grade, I was equal in size, and had sufficiently trained in martial arts to make sure nobody bothered me, but I struggled in school and was socially immature. When I left high school, I was only one hundred and forty five pounds. I finally came out of my shell and started doing music and theater in grades ten, eleven, and twelve. At SFSU and CSU Chico, I competed in collegiate track and field and cross country. By the time I was out of the army, six years of service, I weighed one hundred and ninety pounds. I have been exercising pretty regularly my whole life, and I now weigh two hundred and ten pounds. I am six foot one inches tall. My point is that I have been growing my entire life, and I know I have been developing new skills and academic knowledge along the way as well. Human beings keep growing and developing their whole life, and to make the arbitrary age of eighteen as the cut off for whether or not you are a success in school, is the wrong approach. You read about many people that drop out of high school to pursue their goals, who become very famous and successful. The problem is that many young people give up and check out because they are wrongly labeled as slow or not smart. The educational system has failed this segment of our children, and the price is that many young people turn to anti social behaviors and self destructive behaviors, crime and so forth, because they gave up on the education they need to succeed in the working world, thinking that it wasn’t for them, or it wasn’t their thing. The reality is that they just need to slow down keep working until they become developmentally able and ready to succeed. I call it faking it until you make it. Go though the motions until you get it right.