What would an article about the stethoscope have in common with one discussing preschools in the United States? As I recently read two stories in different publications, I was surprised to find that their focus was similar, in a heartwarming way, and I wanted to share the insight with you. Both pieces emphasized our world of technology advancements and increased reliance on prescribed standards and sophisticated testing to the detriment of the value of human interactions and communication.
The article about the stethoscope was published in The Washington Post on January 2 of this year, titled “Heart Doctors Are Listening for Clues to the Future of their Stethoscopes.” Describing the stethoscope as an obsolete device, the author informs that imaging tests and pocket size ultrasound devices are now used instead. In fact, replacing the instrument makes sense in that cardiologists accurately identified 82% of patients with heart problems while cardiologists using stethoscopes were correct only 47% of the time. It was noted, however, that using more modern equipment means physicians spend less time with patients on physical exams as they must complete computerized records and also deal with an increased number of patients. While it is imperative that the medical profession utilize the best and most accurate resources, it is sad that technology is replacing the visual and verbal exchanges which occur with a stethoscope exam. The author states, “The stethoscope is an icon, of course. Yet it carries more than symbolic value. It narrows the physical distance between doctor and patient. It compels human touch”.
The preschool article was published in the January/February 2016 edition of The Atlantic and was titled “How the New Preschool is Crushing Kids”. The author explains that many preschool educators have recently adopted a more structured and formal curriculum because they believe that kindergarten has become the new “first grade.” The academic expectations of parents at the preschool level have increased also. Consequently, in some preschools children are spending more time with seat work and direct instruction. Spontaneous, unstructured conversations in the classrooms are infrequent. Teachers increasingly direct students through structured activities and “herd” them from one activity to another. There is no time for open-ended questions, curiosity, and free exploration. Teachers are not chatting freely, reading, or building blocks with their students.
The article cites recent research and studies which found that preschool graduates exhibited more readiness when they entered kindergarten but by first grade, “their attitudes toward school were deteriorating…children who had been subjected to the same insipid tasks year after year were understandably losing their enthusiasm for learning.”
In my opinion, children at this young age need more than learning the correct pencil grip and sitting stiffly at a desk; instead they need to sit in their teachers lap, hold the teachers hand, talk openly, know they are listened to and cared for. They need the human touch.
Let me assure you that Wesley UMC Preschool graduates are well prepared for kindergarten and that we continue to make the human touch a top priority. Our educators are “building relationships with their students and paying close attention to their thought processes and, by extension, their communication.” We know how to prepare our children for kindergarten while also loving and nurturing them. God loves us, we love Him, and that love flows from us to you and your children.