This age discrepancy has ramifications well beyond the kindergarten classroom. When those seven year-old kindergartners are high school seniors, their substantial age advantage means you will have more and more nineteen year-olds in the classroom. What will be the statutory rape implications of having them routinely in school with kids as young as thirteen? Those nineteen year-olds also will have that extra year or more of physical maturity to use playing football and other contact sports against younger kids. Do we really want a future Ohio State nineteen year-old All-American linebacker like James Laurenaitis on the football field with a fourteen year-old just hitting puberty? Seems like an unfair fight. It is.
The issue here isn’t about kindergarten. It is about how we seek to game the system whenever we can to gain whatever advantage we can. What message are we sending our children? The message seems to be that bending the rules just short of breaking them is okay. The problem is that the bending area near the breaking point almost always has consequences. Those consequences then lead to more government interference in all aspects of our lives as the government steps in to do what our conscious used to do.
So, a very questionable accounting loophole leads to the Enron debacle, which leads to the Sarbanes-Oxley legislation. The teachers’ unions’ intransigence on accountability leads to millions of poorly educated children, which leads to the Leave No Child Left Behind legislation. Congress’ use of secretive earmarks leads to billions in wasted tax dollars, which leads to – well it doesn’t lead to anything as Congress doesn’t police itself. The point is that when the government gets involved, it invariably overreacts, and we all lose when that happens.
At a time when every possible advantage and loophole is zealously explored and used, it should come as no surprise that we have pushed zero sum competition as far down as kindergarten. We no longer stand our ground by stating, “Just because they do it doesn’t mean we should.” Instead, we excuse our behavior because “everyone else is doing it.” How do we expect our children to navigate the bend, but don’t break world when we do whatever gets us ahead?
As a society, we should aim for something better. In the meantime, get ready for kindergartners who shave.
Matt A. Mayer, President & CEO of Provisum Strategies LLC and Adjunct Professor at The Ohio State University, is the author of the book “Homeland Security and Federalism: Protecting America from Outside the Beltway” available in June 2009.