This is not a joke.
What are “Job Skills?”
In response to feedback from their corporate customers, top business schools are focusing more on “People Skills,” charging future business leaders tens of thousands of dollars for classes in working creatively with others, building with blocks, being respectful, and controlling emotions for the sake of the common goal – all skills that require self-knowledge. At Stanford, “small groups of students learn how to give and receive constructive feedback and control emotional responses to conflict….Tears are commonplace, and even hugs, as students accept feedback and share their feelings.” (read about it here)
Communication, Creativity, Collaboration, being resilient and aware of the needs of others – what’s needed for success at work – Aren’t these really “Pre-school skills?”
Yes – and pre-school is the time to learn them.
First, it is the right time for this kind of learning. Young children are assembling a self, learning about the rest of the world, other people, and how to work together. Math and reading and financial modeling can come later: collaboration and creativity and self-knowledge come first. The time to support learning those skills is the time they are acquired naturally.
Second, getting those skills “up front” helps with other learning as life goes on. What makes kids succeed in elementary school is not how soon they learned to identify numbers and letters (sorry, Sesame Street), but how well they learned the self-management skills required for learning. For example, “learning to read builds on cognitive, linguistic, and social skills developed in the years before reading typically begins.” (2) That’s the work of pre-school: there is no substitute for it, and no better investment in children of that age.
There is a natural age for all learning. You can’t teach a 4 week old puppy to let herself out through a dog door. If your dog gets to 12 month and never learned where it was okay to poop …. Same with people: so, you can train you kid to identify letters on flashcards when he’s 3 – what’s the point? But if Johnny Genius gets to be 8 without learning how to put down his video game, look a potential partner in the eye, and work together on a plan …. Watch out.
Learning builds on other learning. Art is Math! Talking and Listening are Reading!
There is no substitute for quality preschool – and no better investment for our society, or our economy.