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Upon further review, one size doesn't fit all

For those of us that coach youth boys and girls on the athletic fields of play, few activities provide more gratification than helping young minds and bodies achieve their potential in a fun and engaging way.  Bringing-out the best in each athlete is essential to not just athletic success, but also to personal growth.

And in so doing, one very important fact becomes glaringly clear:  each child learns and is motivated in sometimes significantly different ways.  The real art in team building is finding a way to reach each child in a unique manner.  Sure, the skills and techniques are the same no matter who the pitcher may be or who's manning first base.  But each child may learn at a different pace and may understand each skill or technique only if presented in a certain way.  It's individualism at its best and it's why successful coaches must be innovative, creative and hard working, among other things.

My son's summer baseball team, comprised of a group of daisy-picking five and six-year-olds, seemed more interested in kicking dirt than actually playing baseball.  But over the course of the season, each player was nurtured and coached in a unique, individualized way.  The growth and improvement was not just noticeable, but astounding.  At the end of season, it was this once rag-tag bunch that hoisted the tournament championship trophy.  And while the success was certainly great for us parents, the little athletes were still more interested in their post-game snack.

As I reflect back on my son's first baseball experience, I can't help but think about our current educational system and the pervasive attempts in the public and preschool sectors to force every student to learn the same concepts at the same pace as everyone else. 

Having spent some seven years in the preschool education industry, I can tell you that parents are conditioned to accept the "one size fits all" approach to education from a very early point in their child's life.  Some of the most visible and self-proclaimed experts in the early childhood education industry, for example, actually promote the "one size fits all" as an "advantage"...one that allegedly promotes consistency.  One national preschool chain actually shows pride when announcing that all of their students - regardless of location or class make-up - learn the same concepts in the same way at the same time as every other student in their schools.  Is there a better example of a more illogical approach to learning?

And just this week, I learned that the national curricular standards were finally released by the Common Core State Standards Initiative.  The proposed standards themselves are less relevant than the method of their implementation, which proposes to force each student to learn the same concepts at the same pace, something at which little league coaches across the country would likely chuckle.  Neal McCluskey at the Cato Institute reinforced this point in a wonderful blog post associated with the issue.  His point, along with those from others, reinforces the need for a more individualized approach to learning.  

Understanding the individualized needs of students would go a long way toward curricular reform in our public schools.  All it would take is a little league coaching experience to know for sure.

What do you think?  Let us know below,

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