October 11, 2012

What Are They Screening For, Exactly?

If you've raised children for any amount of time, you've probably reached a startling conclusion. Namely, children have a completely unstoppable drive to grow up. You know, "grow up," is probably too strong a term. It's more accurate to say they "age." After all, I'm 37 and I haven't even begun to "grow up," but I sure do age.

Anyway, late last month, my boy officially "aged" three years, an event that was marked with cake and presents and, a couple weeks later, a letter arriving in the mail indicating it was time to bring him in for early childhood screening.

Now, it's been a few decades or so since I went through early childhood screening, so my memory of it's a bit fuzzy, but if I do remember correctly, I seem to recall there was no such thing as early childhood screening when I was three years old. Nowadays, however, early childhood screening is considered essential starting at the age of three, because nothing is quite as important as judging children as inadequately prepared years before they're adequately prepared.

Nevertheless, I dutifully brought my boy to an early childhood screening appointment last week fully anticipating--since he knows his alphabet and can count to ten--that he'd pass the testing with flying colors. This anticipation took something of a negative hit when I directed my boy in for his weight and height check and he steadfastly refused to stand on the scale, and by "steadfastly" I mean he blew several raspberries at the testing woman and then sprawled on the floor in a classic act of passive resistance.

Undeterred, the testing woman asked my son if, instead, he'd like to play some games, which perked him up somewhat and he followed her into an adjoining room. The "games" were pretty straightforward to start with. The woman handed my boy several objects and asked him to describe them, and she went through a series of pictures asking my boy to identify them, and he seemed to be doing quite well, so I busied myself with filling out the ream of paperwork that was handed to me prior to the testing, occasionally lifting my head to see how my boy was faring.

"Now," said the testing woman, "We're going to try some association games."

"Brother is a boy; sister is a WHAT?"

I looked up from my paperwork, somewhat surprised. I was surprised, both because a word association "game" like that seemed particularly advanced for a three-year-old, but also because it left the door open for a variety of possible answers. Given that my boy has been known to push and run away from his sister in frustration, he may have a fairly strong opinion as to WHAT a sister is, after all. Not surprisingly, however, he just stared at the test woman with a perplexed/concerned look on his face, as she scribbled in her book.

"A bird flies in the air; a fish swims in WHAT?"

Again I looked up in surprise. What kind of screening question is that? He's THREE YEARS OLD. Why not ask him "The square root of grasshopper is WHAT?" Again, my boy just looked at her with a perplexed/concerned look. As he should have.

"This table is wood; the window is WHAT?"

OK, it was at that point I started wondering if maybe the whole early childhood screening thing was somewhat of a racket. Seriously, my boy can name every single character in the "Thomas the Tank Engine" universe, which I find astounding. Somehow, marching my boy around the house trying to make him understand the difference between wood and glass and plastic and composite materials just struck me as stealing his toddler childhood right out from under him somehow.

After one more similar ridiculously complex question that my boy had no chance in the solar system of being able to answer, the test woman informed me that--because he missed four questions--that part of the screening would be halted and screened at a later date. That, in itself, was astounding to me, because it suggested there were even more difficult questions yet to be asked.

"The primary gas makeup of Jupiter is hydrogen; the primary gas makeup of Neptune is WHAT?"

"Newton's 'Principia' explored the natural movement of massive bodies reacting to a variety of forces, particularly gravity; Einstein's 'Special Theory of Relativity' explored WHAT?"

Seriously, the kid is THREE. Ask him about the alphabet; he might surprise you.

Posted by Ryan at October 11, 2012 03:28 PM | TrackBack
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