Should kindergarten be mandatory?
Lawmakers in Buffalo, New York, think so. The city recently changed its policy and made kindergarten mandatory for all 5-year-olds. Parents in the city must now send their little ones to the schoolhouse or face enforcement through child protective service agencies.
Currently, the quasi-grade it is not mandatory in most states. While all states provide kindergarten, parents are under no legal obligation in most states to send their kids off to the school until their sixth birthday.
Policymakers in Buffalo say they need the law to improve kindergarten absenteeism rates. Before attendance was mandatory, parents who voluntarily chose to enroll their kids didn't "take attendance for kindergarten classes seriously."
It is hard to take a grade that most people associate with finger painting seriously. And that might be part of the issue. Kindergarten isn't just child's play anymore. Researchers say kindergarten has become the new first grade where little tots are taught to read and write.
So, when kids miss that year, they might miss out on being on par with their peers in first grade.
We can thank the Germans for our traditional view of the class. Friedrich Wilhelm Froebel established the first kindergarten program in Germany in 1837. Froebel emphasized learning through playing and believed in the importance of stories, music, nature studies and symbolic ideas like children sitting together in "the kindergarten circle."
The word kindergarten originated from the way Froebel described children: as plants who were nurtured by their gardener/teachers.
Another component of the bill is prekindergarten. Interim Buffalo School Superintendent Will Keresztes said the bill will "heighten interest by parents in sending their children to prekindergarten programs. He added that the district would push for more money from the state for an expansion of prekindergarten classes.
So, it may be only a matter of time before prekindergarten becomes the new kindergarten and so forth. Which raises the real question: How early can the state force parents to give up their kids to the school system?