Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Boy, things have changed. When I grew up I was in fear of getting left back a year in school so I got good grades. Now Moms are purposely leaving back their kids so they are the smartest and the biggest kid in the class. Their logic is that you want your kid to be the first to be able to drive not the last one in their circle of friends. You know the oldest kid not the youngest.
They even have a term for this practice. It is called “Red Shirting.” The practice of holding back your five year old kid from kindergarten until he reaches age six so he’ll be among the oldest and smartest of children in his class. Parents of a child with a late birthday in the year despair that their little one would not be able to compete with kids 6 or 8 months older than them.
So, they hold them back a year so they have the edge in class and ultimately have the advantage in life. It has become a high stakes race in the world of education. If the child is unlucky enough to have a birthday in July he misses out on the class birthday party and is among one of the youngest in his class.
I wanted my kid to move forward so that in case they were stupid and had to be left back because they failed every subject, they can still be in a class among kids their age. My logic seemed good at the time. Now parents in this situation have a completely different view from mine. They purposely hold their kid back to give their child an extra year of growth in both size and maturity.
The term “Red Shirting” goes back to the 50’s, when an athlete was held back from playing due to age or injury and received a red shirt so that everyone knew that he was ineligible to play but was practicing with the team. Very often in college sports, especially football, the athlete was held back due to injury to allow extra time to heal or because the school had another older very good player at the same position and they did not want to have one player sit while the other got all the attention. Now the term refers to other situations besides athletics.
Parents who now hold their kids back on purpose feel that it gives their kids an advantage not only in school and sports but in life generally. They now become a leader in their environment rather than just trying to keep up with the crowd. The parents don’t think that it is cheating the system, they feel that they are doing the best for their child. So what if he is bored.
It used to be that everyone started Kindergarten at age 5, now nearly ¼ of the kindergarten classes are populated by 6 year olds. This practice has more than tripled since the 1970’s. Boys are twice as likely to be held back as girls. Whites more than minorities and rich more than poor. Now that is REAL discrimination.
Most of the parents are getting this influence from a best selling book that even my daughter was required to read in her psychology class called “ Outliers” The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell which has become a sort of Bible among parents of 4 and 5 year olds. In the book he talks about a topic called cumulative advantage which is the idea that a little extra nudge ahead when you are 6 years old means that it puts you in a better position year after year as you age. You see this pattern in one field after another.
As in the sport of hockey. The majority of all Canadian junior all stars had one thing in common. The overwhelming amount of kids were born in the first half of the year. The simple explanation is that in Canada the birth date cut off for junior hockey is January 1st. So then your kid is bigger than the kid born in December and everyone thinks your kid is better. And if you are better from the outset, you attract far more interest from the coaches and get more practice. The predominance of winter birthdates extend into the pros.
So guys and girls, if you want your kid to have an advantage in life, MAKE BABIES NOW in March so they are born at the right time to be ahead of everyone in the class. It is the new American way to get ahead in life. Jeeze, give me a break.

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