Home > City mama, education > The redshirting thing… again

The redshirting thing… again

I’ve written about redshirting before. Though that particular post devolved into a scree against the half-assedness of the U.S. educational system. Now that I think on it, a lot of my posts degenerate into screes. Anyway…

The article in the Times which I cited last time was interesting because it contradicted a lot of things that the educational literature was saying. What’s more, the Times article made more sense to me than the official party line.

Basically, everyone in the biz of teaching kids insists that redshirting is pointless since all those differences simply evaporate by 5th grade. I remember hearing that and feeling two totally different things at once:

One was relief: The Child won’t be among the youngest, so it’s not really an issue for us, but she won’t be among the oldest either. And we just don’t have the cash to keep her at home another year.

The second was sheer skepticism: Those differences really disappear? Honestly? Truly? The teachers who have heard from previous teachers about how brilliant little Tommy is are simply going to disregard that information? The confidence and self-assurance built over those previous years is going to evaporate? What about little Suzie who has been struggling (unsuccessfully) to keep up with kids more than a year older than she is? She’s suddenly going to blossom into a brilliant, confident reader?

(There was a third thought, too. Which was, cynically, “Well! Isn’t that convenient that the educational researchers have decided that something that undermines their whole way of thinking is totally irrelevant?!”)

Well, the Times article points out that my second reaction was on the money. Redshirting has a significant effect. The youngest kids in each class tend to struggle. And once they get used to being behind, get used to not being right or called upon, they sort of get stuck in that rut. And the older kids, the ones who shine and are praised all the time, they get stuck there, too. They approach everything with the confidence of someone who doesn’t often fail, so they don’t often fail.

Turns out, there’s even more supporting evidence for this, too, in a strange place: the baseball diamond. The Boys of Late Summer, it turns out, are better players than the Boys of Mid-Summer. Little League cutoff is July 31. About twice as many MLB players are born in August (and so older than everyone else in their Little League year) than in July (and so the youngest in their year). In fact, the rate of birthdays occurring in the majors is high in August and then declines each month until July, a steady and irrefutable decline.

This, of course, makes me nuts again. The Child is a January birthday — she won’t be at any significant advantage or disadvantage against her year. But she will be at a significant disadvantage against those of her classmates (up to a third in my region!) who may be a full year older than she is. That’s just dumb and it fucks with my kid. Which makes me nuts.

What’s more, it’s a major problem and I don’t have an alternative solution to offer. (Other than a violent and complete overhaul of the U.S. educational system. Improbable.) I hate not having a solution. It bugs me.

Categories: City mama, education
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