Arguments For & Against
Early Learning

"Teaching will harm the child..."

The arguments of Kathy Hirsh-Pasek and Roberta Michnick Golinkoff in the book Einstein Never Used Flash Cards, and BrillBaby's response:

Kathy Hirsh-Pasek and Roberta Michnick Golinkoff:

Pushing children can backfire and create children who dread learning.

BrillBaby's response:

Who said anything about pushing? It is a common misconception that early learning programs involve forcing children to endure lessons against their will. In fact, educators such as Glenn Doman and Makoto Shichida repeatedly emphasize that early learning programs should be fun for the child.

Lessons should only be given when the child is receptive and should be stopped before the child loses interest. Parents who approach early learning in this way often report that their child looks forward to lessons and even seeks to prolong them.

Most of us have experienced some form of coercion or dread related to going to school, doing homework and/or sitting examinations. But unlike the grown-ups terrified of "creating children who dread learning," young children themselves carry none of this emotional baggage. Indeed, very young children do not distinguish between learning and playing, as nothing is more fun for a baby than discovering something new.

We would encourage you as a parent to enable your child to learn reading and math from a young age (provided you are comfortable with doing so). If your child is bored, you can always stop the lessons. But just because you dreaded reading or math in school doesn't mean your baby will. In fact, it could be because reading or math was introduced to you too late that you found it difficult to learn. When learning is a struggle, we become decreasingly motivated, eventually developing a negative association with the subject in question.

Not only is it fun for babies to learn reading or math, they also find it easy - far easier than school-age children. Everything comes naturally to a baby. Likewise, if you wanted to teach your five- or six-year-old a new language, it would be more difficult for her to learn than if you had introduced it from birth. When a child starts school with a foundation of knowledge in reading and math, those subjects feel like second nature - just like her native language.

Sticking to the Doman/Shichida principle of joyous, loving teaching that follows the child's lead, the danger of "creating children who dread learning" disappears. One of the most charming things about young children is their absolute candor - their emotions are transparent. A baby who is enjoying her lesson will smile or grin and lean forwards with wide-open eyes. A baby who is not enjoying herself will grimace, twist her head to look away, fuss or cry.

The only way for parents to turn their child's natural love of learning into a dread of learning would be to conduct lessons improperly - by forcing, testing, or assuming a negative attitude. Don't put pressure on yourself to achieve certain goals - your child will be able to sense it. It's also important that you give the sort of lessons you feel enthusiastic about yourself.