Friday, March 17, 2006

This Is Just...Sad

Kindergarten children in New York will be learning about HIV and AIDS, including that it's hard to "get well" from AIDS.

They won't be learning how AIDS is contracted, which is at least something positive, yet I would think the program may leave these 5-year-olds with a fear that they, too, could get AIDS.

The curriculum is described as "developmentally appropriate." How could it be appropriate to teach little children just out of preschool about a virus contracted in ways they can't begin to fathom?

Some days I can only shake my head.

9 Comments:

Blogger dj sciz said...

Could it be because lots of these little kids, or their parents or other family members, have AIDS? Lots of people are living longer and longer with AIDS, so I'm thinking it's quite possible that lots of these little ones are living with it too.

10:48 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi dj sciz,

I'd be surprised if a majority of children in NY are living with relatives with AIDS, but if we grant this possibility as being the case, the next question becomes...is this an issue for the schools, or an issue for families? My suggestion is that when we're talking about 5-year-olds, it's an issue best left for parents. Perhaps a middle ground would be for schools to provide educational materials to those families who would find it helpful, so that the parents can discuss it with their children as they see fit...meanwhile, the other children won't be exposed to very adult topics unnecessarily.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Best wishes, Laura

11:09 AM  
Blogger dj sciz said...

Funny, I don't think I said anything about a majority, did I? Beyond that, people do have pretty passionate ideas about what belongs in the schools and what should be left up to families. I'm no different. When I was in 5th grade, my family had to teach me math and science, reading and writing. Things were better in sixth grade, but after that, learning in school was pretty touch and go. I graduated high school in 1980. From what I hear, schools have not improved.

But I sure was glad for the sex education, and all the trouble the teachers went to to make sure that we understood that the world was absolutely packed with people who are completely different than we are. Families do that pretty badly, schools can do it well.

3:36 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

You're absolutely correct, I inferred a "majority" from "lots" -- perhaps because in my own view, I can't see exposing all children to the concept of a sexually transmitted (or needle-transmitted) terminal illness if the children aren't affected in extremely significant numbers.

I'm curious as to why you think families do a poor job exposing children to the idea "the world was absolutely packed with people who are completely different than we are." In my view, it's pretty difficult not to learn that lesson anywhere, unless you're living a rather hermit-like existence -- beyond school, there are so many opportunities for that kind of exposure, whether it be church, sports, the neighborhood, Scouts, community, watching the news, etc. :) In fact, my own opinion is that a family setting can be a wonderful way not only to have that exposure to other people and their ideas, but to put that learning in the context of the family's own outlook and beliefs --for instance, in recent months my own children have been learning about world religions. They are becoming very well-informed and also able to view other religions from our perspective as Christians.

We graduated H.S. in the same year!

Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.

Best wishes,
Laura

3:48 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

PS, Please forgive me for "going on" (grin), but since I'm passionate about books I can't resist adding a comment about the value of reading to expose children/students to very different people and ideas. For instance, my daughter and I are reading Lenski's SHOO-FLY GIRL, about an Amish family. When she reads IN THE YEAR OF THE BOAR AND JACKIE ROBINSON, she'll read of the experience of a Chinese girl in Brooklyn. When she reads ALL-OF-A-KIND FAMILY she'll be learning about Jewish customs. And so on. :) Best wishes, Laura

4:03 PM  
Blogger J.P. said...

I hope that you don’t mind me commenting on this.

There’s no doubt that many children must deal with HIV and AIDS at home, but the politicians who pushed for the implementation of this curriculum seemed to ignore the fact that children this age are not able to comprehend and think about things logically the same way that adults do.

Most kindergarten-age children have daily tasks of learning their alphabet, numbers, shapes, colors, etc. This is done because they can’t understand things that are heavier than that in intellectual terms; it’s what led to Piaget deeming the ages two years to seven years the “preoperational stage.”

Speaking from the standpoint of cognitive development, we should spend more time ensuring that children this young know the entry-level concepts like letters, numbers, shapes, colors, and basic sentence structure; put human immunodeficiency viruses on the back-burner until the kids can comprehend the information.

7:44 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks for your input, J.P. -- the more the merrier. I am in agreement with your point of view. The point you mention about lack of comprehension is a big part of my concern -- that this program, among other issues, may unnecessarily cause these very young children to be fearful.

I'll give a personal example I remembered while reading your note, regarding the not necessarily logical thought processes of children at a young age regarding "adult" health issues -- when my eldest was 7 and had just started 3rd grade (she would turn 8 that fall), her new teacher initiated a class debate on abortion. (He somehow made the jump from a discussion on "ethics" and good behavior on the playground. His excuse was because they were gifted he forgot their age! As you will see, even "giftedness" does not necessarily mean a young child fully comprehends and thinks logically about an adult issue.)

I was expecting at the time and for a couple weeks my daughter, for whom abortion was a brand-new concept, was extremely fearful that my doctor would "hurt" our baby. She was very, very upset by this idea, to the extent that while she was usually a very open child, she didn't confide this fear for several days...then it took some time to undo the damage caused. (BTW, she was immediately transferred out of his class. And it was one incident among many on our path to eventually being homeschoolers.)

Enjoyed reading your thoughts about this on your site.

Best wishes, Laura

8:59 AM  
Blogger Robin B said...

Just last week at our church a guest speaker from South Africa highlighted the horrendous conditions in South Africa, Botswana and other African countries decimated from HIV/AIDS. We were stunned by the numbers of AIDS orphans and families affected. My friend's 10-year old daughter was sitting in service with her parents. Her mother asked her, "What did you think of the message today, do you have any questions?" This precious little girl wanted to know, "When are you and daddy going to get it? Are you going to die too?" This of course broke my friends's heart. What her little girl heard was that millions of children just like her lost their parents to HIV/AIDS, were orphans and that it was coming to the United States.

10:44 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Oh, Robin, that's so sad!

Excellent that your church is informed on the magnitude of the issue. And what a timely illustration of how children tend to view "big picture" adult-type issues in "micro" -- "how will it affect me?" and aren't always able to translate the facts into whether or not they'll actually be affected.

Thanks so much for sharing that -- Laura

11:59 AM  

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