Braselton News

June 18, 2008


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Column
By Kerri Testement

Today’s toys lack imagination
My daughter loves her little, red wagon. It’s one of those vintage wagons made with metal — not plastic — and no additional frills.
My grandfather restored that wagon — now almost 60 years old — especially for Katie, now 20 months old. She doesn’t know it, but previous generations have happily enjoyed being pulled along a sidewalk in the same wagon, too.
That wagon is one of the few multi-generational items in our family available to Katie.
My mom has a no-frills wooden highchair — also restored by my grandfather — sitting in her kitchen in Columbus. The first time we sat Katie in that highchair, we took countless photos. It marked the time when a third generation sat in that chair.
And there is also an old child-sized rocking chair sitting somewhere in my mother’s attic. That chair, too, has been enjoyed for more than six decades.
The days of passing down toys or other objects from one generation to another seem to be fading.
Most of that may be due to the inferior quality of toys for this generation than in previous generations. Of all of the countless items in Katie’s toy chest and bedroom, I don’t think many of them will survive another year — much less another generation.
And nowadays toys just seem more complex than just a generation ago.
Katie recently received a plastic kitchen play set. It features most of the items seen a typical kitchen — a microwave, forks, spoons, dishes, glasses and a cell phone.
A cell phone?
Do kids need a cell phone for their toy kitchen when it seems like they are featured on every other toy?
Katie has an Elmo doll with a cell phone in his pocket. She has a talking alphabet toy, also with a cell phone. And she probably has at least three other toy cell phones she has received as gifts.
But don’t get me wrong — that little girl loves her cell phones.
Perhaps it’s because she sees her mommy and daddy on a cell phone. She seems to think they are our “toys,” and wants to play with them, too.
And the crazy thing is, she has learned how to make calls on our cell phones. She has also figured out a bunch of features on my cell phone that I didn’t know even existed. Smart kid.
Like so many other kids, Katie is more easily entertained with today’s complex toys — the ones with too many annoying sounds, lights and movements.
But I still want her to play with those older toys — the ones that don’t provide all of the entertainment for her and still require her to use her imagination.
Kerri Testement is news editor of The Braselton News. Her e-mail address is kerri@mainstreetnews.com.


School year change just a diversion
A proposal this week by state school superintendent Kathy Cox to have all Georgia schools begin later will no doubt be met with applause by those who don’t like the current early August start.
But Cox’s plan has less to do with education than it does to divert attention away from her department’s recent CRCT fiasco.
While there are legitimate arguments pro and con to various school calendars, that decision should be local and left to local school leaders and patrons to work out. If a community wants to start school after Labor Day, so be it. If a school system wants to start in July or August, it’s a decision for that school’s community to decide.
Cox said her proposal would give schools more time to make the all-important federal AYP by allowing the numbers from CRCT retakes to be calculated. That may be technically true, but if a school is so weak that it needs to use re-testing numbers to make AYP, there are deeper problems than the school’s calendar.
The real problem is that state officials under Cox have been yanking school curriculums around too much and they have failed to make sure what is being tested on the CRCT is actually being taught in the classrooms. Evidence of that was seen in this year’s Social Studies scores, which were thrown out, and the eighth grade math scores, which were low.
Those failures created a strong backlash from parents and many teachers and school officials. So to change the subject, Cox is now tossing out her school calendar plan.
But where will the state and federal control end? If the state is going to control local school calendars, if it is going to dictate all school curriculums, if it is going to control a majority of all school funding and if state and federal mandates are going to dictate standardized testing, then what will be left for local school boards to do?
While many local school boards have come under fire in recent years for being ineffective — Clayton County, for example — the solution is not for the state to take more control.
At some point in this debate local school leaders across Georgia are going to have to grow some backbone and fight back. All through the federal No Child Left Behind rules and increasing state mandates, too many local school leaders have simply gone along to get along. Few have fought back against this tide of increasing state control and inane federal mandates.
So this issue of school calendars may be a watershed for local school leaders. Will they once again roll over and give into state control, or will they fight back and demand that such decisions remain at the local level?



 

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