Global pressures force changes on local level
The Eudora School District has decided that starting next fall kindergarten classes will last the length of the school day. The half-day kindergarten that has been the standard since World War II will soon be as much of the past as one-room school houses, at least locally.
Parents and grandparents may see in the expanded classes another example of society forcing youngsters to grow up faster. Those who oppose the increased parental separation or question whether all-day kindergarten is an exercise in diminishing returns given the attention spans and stamina of 5 year olds might suggest money is behind the change. But the way the school-finance formula is structured, the change should be a wash -- neither adding nor subtracting for the district's bottom line. Unless state lawmakers, already engaged in bleeding the budget to meet a court-ordered mandate to provide more money to state school districts, decide all-day kindergarten is not essential for an adequate education.
A more promising place to find motivation for the change is the growing state and federal demands for accountability and the extensive testing that requires. The district must demonstrate continued progress on those tests, but because the district was already doing a good job educating students, there is a limit to how much can be gained by curriculum and classroom improvements. The added half-day will open up a new front from which to give students a leg up in the all-important early grades.
But at its root, the change speaks to the global pressures. The community's youngsters will compete in the employment marketplace against peers in Kansas and elsewhere in the United States. But the competition doesn't end there. Their standard of living individually and collectively will also be determined by how well they can compete with workforces in Europe and China -- continental economies now showing signs of entering new golden ages -- to say nothing of Japan, other fast-developing countries on the Pacific Rim, and perhaps a revived Eastern Europe.
We may not like it that globalization forces changes in Eudora's homes and classrooms, but to ignore its forces would give us less freedom of action in the future.