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Pre-K Is Making Kids Less Likely To Succeed, More Likely To Be Diagnosed With ADHD

By Jessica Marie Baumgartner··  10 min read
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Children are smart. They have the ability to learn things we adults have lost. Many parents witness this every day and want to foster a love of learning to encourage their children to do well in school, but sometimes we mistake intelligence for maturity.

Just because a 3 year old likes books, doesn’t mean they need to be shipped off to school. Sure my 3-year-old son loves building things, but I wouldn’t sign him up for a carpentry apprenticeship yet.  

Yet the conversation about universal pre-school keeps popping up, and it might sound like a nice idea… after all, if everyone were properly educated wouldn’t the world be a better place? It’s a great philosophy, but then again, even though we’re experiencing the highest literacy rates in modern history, there are still plenty of people who choose not to read books and some who don’t fully comprehend metaphor and simile, so maybe what we need is a better approach to a proper education.

What's a Proper Education?

It seems as if everyone’s idea of a “proper education” is different. Big government politicians think a proper education is high test scores and more workers. The teachers I talk to are always focused on socialization and making sure their students can work well within a group setting.

There is a lot of value to letting kids be kids. Unfortunately, over the past few generations, the span of childhood freedom has been growing smaller and smaller. Parents schedule kids for playdates, sports, art class, summer camps, etc. and hold them to such strict timing that it’s no wonder everyone struggled during the pandemic. None of these kids knew how to be in their own heads and just think for themselves. They’ve been boxed up and packaged and sent from one group to the other, constantly directed by an adult in charge. The younger they go into a system like this, the less they’re able to figure things out for themselves or succeed in the long run.  

The Myth That Early Schooling Leads To Later Success

While early pre-school studies have shown positive short-term results, a new long-running study has shown the long-term effects of placing young children in academic-based pre-schools: it actually hinders them as they go through grade school and face tougher subjects. 

Dr. Peter Gray, a research professor at Boston College, analyzed a study of different groups of children. The direct instruction group contained children placed in academic pre-school earlier. He noted, “Those in the direct instruction group showed early academic gains, which soon vanished. This study, however, also included follow-up research when the participants were 15 years old and again when they were 23 years old. At these ages, there were no significant differences among the groups in academic achievement, but large, significant differences in social and emotional characteristics.” 

He went on to note, “By age 15, those in the direct instruction group had committed, on average, more than twice as many ‘acts of misconduct’ than had those in the other two groups. At age 23, as young adults, the differences were even more dramatic. Those in the direct instruction group had more instances of friction with other people, were more likely to have shown evidence of emotional impairment, were less likely to be married and living with their spouse, and were far more likely to have committed a crime than were those in the other two groups.”

Children who are put in school too soon have more emotional issues and are more likely to be convicted of a crime.

So children who are put in school too soon have more emotional issues and are more likely to be convicted of a crime. It's easy to see why this is the case. Children who are placed in school early see less of their parents. They don’t get to be in their own space exploring themselves and their world as often as children who are placed in school later. They miss out on the direct one-on-one attention they would receive from a parent or in-house caretaker, as well as the space to wander through familiar rooms gaining a better frame-of-reference before they’re thrust into the outside world and forced to filter through multiple messages that come from friends, teachers, radios, billboards, and everything else working to pull their attention in a specific direction. 

Convenient but Destructive

Pre-school may seem convenient. Single or working moms can drop their kids off on the way to work and pick them up after their shift. Dual working parent households can gain more income by sending kids to pre-school earlier without paying for an expensive daycare or babysitter. 

It may be easier, but it’s destructive. Parents want more money to care for their kids, so they send their children to school sooner to provide for them, but those children grow up socially confused because they lacked a sense of home and family, and then they struggle to balance their life and end up in arrested development, living at home into their 20s, 30s, and even 40s.

Less parental involvement equals more confidence issues, behavioral problems, and learning fatigue.  

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, it was frowned upon to put a child in school before they were 7 years old. This is referenced in classic literature, especially the Anne of Green Gables series. Mothers who sent their children away too soon were considered lazy. As more and more women joined the workforce, children have been pushed into the system younger and younger with values, manners, and intelligence levels somehow depleting as they’re sent to public schools sooner and sooner. 

The push for universal pre-k will further eradicate childhood and contribute to this downward spiral – depleting the ability for young minds to dream and explore without being told what to think, all so both parents can work jobs that pull them further and further from their children’s lives. Less parental involvement equals more confidence issues, behavioral problems, and learning fatigue.  

Boxing Our Children into Misdiagnoses of Behavioral Issues

Young children are still exploring their boundaries and looking for a sense of identity; by shipping them off to factorized schools they’re taught to try and fit certain standards before they’re ready. My niece is currently experiencing this in her kindergarten class. She is an active child, very musically inclined, and always ready to lead. My poor sister has been “cursed” with a loud, outspoken child – like me – who has trouble sitting still because she has a lot of energy to do things.  

She is only 5 years old, but is somehow expected to add, subtract, read sentences, and take standardized tests. Her recent test scores came back displaying that she is in the bottom 20% of her class. When my sister and brother-in-law discussed this with her teacher, she told them not to worry about it. She said that the tests don’t accurately measure intelligence because my niece is excelling in every subject and displaying great cognition. 

This is history repeating itself. When I was five, there was no way I could sit long enough to even take a test, and I struggled with test anxiety/boredom all throughout my public school career. If the schooling system wasn’t so fixated on sedentary practices that keep children glued to the spot, children like my niece would excel. Instead, children like her are punished by the system, and so my sister is contemplating holding her back. I’m not sure if this is the best solution to the problem either, but it’s much better than what I faced. 

The system tried to medicate me because I had trouble sitting still and experienced test anxiety (boredom, really). Thankfully, my mother refused and got me into sports and scouting programs instead. But if my niece continues to have similar issues, I know the system will be seeking an ADHD diagnosis. It has become too commonplace, and public schools receive additional funding for “special needs” children, so more diagnoses, even misdiagnoses, raise budgets.  

Large numbers of kids are being overdiagnosed and overtreated for ADHD because they happen to be relatively immature.

A 2018 study conducted by the New England Journal of Medicine confirmed that children who are enrolled in early childhood education classes at younger ages have a higher risk of being diagnosed with ADHD. Timothy Layton, assistant professor of health care policy in the Blavatnik Institute at Harvard Medical School, assessed the material and admitted, “Our findings suggest the possibility that large numbers of kids are being overdiagnosed and overtreated for ADHD because they happen to be relatively immature compared to their older classmates in the early years of elementary school.”

Young children don’t sit still well. Especially active freethinkers. Instead of giving creativity free license to help encourage the leaders of tomorrow, institutionalized learning for younger and younger children reprimands creativity and punishes them for not being submissive subordinates who sit like robots. Misdiagnosis of behavioral issues often leads to prescription pills that increase health issues and the potential for substance abuse later in life.

Sometimes active children are hard to manage, but teachers and schools that use ADHD diagnoses as a crutch to handle their active students need to get more creative because it’s the hyper kids who are better apt to funnel that energy into industriousness, ingenuity, problem solving, critical thinking, and paving new paths. If we truly want to mold young minds and help future leaders find their way, then the system needs to be less systematic and more explorative for young children who don’t thrive well after entering pre-school. 

Closing Thoughts: A School System of Indoctrination

Instead of learning self-reliance, confidence, and how to take the lead, we’re essentially priming 3 year olds to do what they’re told and stunting their ability to figure things out for themselves. Yes, children need some structure, but that should be supplied by parents first. A parent is their child’s first teacher, nurse, cook, and more. They’re not afraid of liabilities or following federal guidelines; they’re also not just doing a job for pay, they’re fully invested.  

Young children who are placed into schools earlier are less likely to question their teacher or recognize political overreach in the classroom. If their teacher tells them that that pineapple doesn’t belong on pizza, they’re more likely to avoid it and miss out on that burst of awesomeness that bakes so well into cheese. (A silly example, but you get the point.)

“Get them while they’re young” is a philosophy that still threatens younger generations, and the public education system seems to be following it. As concerned mothers and fathers speak out against questionable materials in public schools, politicians have literally stated, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach,” while numerous districts are working to block bills that require lesson plans to be transparent and open to parents.

If children are being taught valuable lessons in schools, why wouldn’t schools and teachers want parents to know what the kids are learning? Parents really need to consider all their options when looking at enrolling their little ones in pre-school. You’re not just trusting your children to a teacher, but also a district whose funds are directed by politicians and powerful teacher’s unions. There’s a reason it’s called a “system.”  

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