For a while I thought it was okay for my son to be in school because he was two grades ahead when he entered first grade and really, he just wanted to be in school because he loves other kids. I ignored so much so I wouldn’t have to face the terrifying thought of homeschooling. But I see now that when a kid is smart and rich –that’s the time it’s most important to take them out of school. Here’s why:
1. Being ahead of the class in early grades is harmful long term.
Do you already know your kid is ahead by kindergarten or first grade? Probably. For one thing, if you earn six figures then you are in the highest 20% of income in the US and your kids test higher than the other 80%. Also, if you child is born early in the cutoff period for the school year then he or she is probably ahead of their peers.
Psychologist Angela Duckworth says that kids who are ahead of their peers in the early grades fail to learn grit—the knowledge that perseverance, dedication, and motivation can help you—where an absolute advantage may not immediately come to the rescue.
2. Redshirting hurts kids academically.
Today 17% of parents redshirt their kids (usually boys) so that they are stronger in sports. (This data came from economist Steven Levitt—about how professional hockey players tended to have been the oldest in their grade. The conclusion was that big kids get better at sports.) But now it appears that redshirting is not benefitting kids academically.
The conclusion for some parents will be that they have to choose between athletic and academic success. It’s a false choice, though. Realistically, kids who are amazing at their sport will put their training first and forgo the absurd homework load that prevents doing anything meaningful outside of school. Which is to say, those great athletes will homeschool—which is already happening. So you shouldn’t redshirt for athletics, you should homeschool for athletics.
Which leaves the issue of kids who have no choice but to be the oldest in their grades. It hurts them. We know this from studies of the mixed-grade classroom: younger kids benefit academically. (As long as there are not too many younger kids, it doesn’t hurt the older kids.) So being the youngest in a grade pushes you to do better. And you learn to function that way, which is how you learn to teach yourself—one of the most important skills you need to be a successful adult.
3. School equates smart kids with special ed kids.
Special ed is for kids who are not fitting in it, which means really smart kids get put in special ed all the time.
The student teacher ratio means that teachers need to teach to the mean. Anyone extremely above or below needs to be dealt with separately. The courts have ruled that an appropriate education means that the child improves throughout the school year. It’s a very low bar to set for a kid who is above average already, but because above average kids are given the same metrics as below average kids.
4. School is for poor kids.
Rich kids will succeed regardless of their education. This is not because they are smarter as much as that the benefits that come with being rich come with the benefits of high test scores.
They test higher than poor kids, regardless of the school they are in. Rich kids learn to read without being taught, but poor kids don’t. And marriages between rich people are more stable, which means rich kids get more advantages while a higher percentage of poor kids end up living in single-parent households (the majority of which are in poverty).
When politicians are being honest, they look at school as a welfare service for underprivileged children. That’s fine. I’m all for providing those kids with extra services via school. But then we need to be honest with the parents who are not poor: school is not good for their kids.