Thursday, March 22, 2012

Expendable, I mean "Red Shirting"

Red Shirting is a tactic that has been sweeping the nation. For those of you who don't know what Red Shirting is, it is basically holding your child back in Kindergarten for the purpose of making them the oldest kid in their class throughout their school years. This practice comes with some advantages and some disadvantages. Among the advantages, your child will develop more leadership skills and a greater skill/size advantage on sports teams. However, I happen to think the advantages are out weighed by some of the disadvantages.

A lot of moms are practicing Red Shirting in order to give their kid the "edge" in sports. When your child is the oldest in his class, he will be the biggest and most skilled kid on the team, and probably on the opposing teams as well. This gets him in line for scholarships based on performance and more attention to improve his skills. The more skill someone has on a team, the harder they are pushed by the coaches, therefore gaining more skill... it makes sense to me. However, you stole a year from the beginning of their sports career, and therefore are going to cut it short in the end. They will never be the "youngest kid on the varsity team" or the "Youngest professional" sports team member. and they will have to retire from their age before all of their peers. I suppose this is just one year, what's the big deal.

That brings me to another side of this practice called "Red Shirting". Kids who are the oldest in their class often display more leadership skills and become more social in their early years, carrying over to their adult life. I can see how this is a good thing as well. However, being the oldest kid in the class, might also make it more difficult to interact with older children. You are so used to being the oldest, strongest, most looked up to... what happens when you get in the situation where you have to be the youngest? Your parents have instilled in you that you are a "Leader", but sometimes you have to follow other people. How confusing... Besides that, I was always one of the oldest kids in my class, and I always felt stupid because the younger kids were smarter than I was. I know that sounds silly, but if everything in school... life... is a competition (and don't tell me that you never competed with your peers over every little stupid thing) then what happens when the kid who is 2 years younger than you gets better grades than you. You feel so stupid because you are supposed to be older, bigger, stronger than he is. And if your parents have pulled this "Red Shirting" tactic with you, then obviously they are going to instill in you that you are better than that, they are the ones who are trying to make you better than everyone else, or they wouldn't have tried to hold you back so you could be the "oldest in the class". Am I right? You don't hold someone back who is perfectly capable of succeeding at their age level just for no reason. You do it to make them better than all their classmates, that automatically makes that child compete with every single other child in their class, at your insistence. Which I think is a pretty poor example for you to be setting for your very impressionable kid...

In my day (not too long ago), it was a mark of your intelligence if you were the youngest kid in your class. Your parents would let you Skip a grade because you were out performing your peers and a more mature curriculum would push your brain to work harder for the betterment of yourself, not for the detriment of the rest of your class... I have really strong feelings against this "Red Shirting". I think it is not doing the best you can for your child, it is comparing your child to everyone else. It is not pushing your child to be the best that he or she can be, it is pushing them to be "better than everyone else". And that is NOT something that I want my children to become. I do NOT want them to feel like they have to be better than everyone else in order to have worth. What happens when they are Not the best? Are you teaching your child to take the disappointments along with the successes?

I want my child to step into the situation, asses it for what it is, and do their best to accomplish their goal, no matter what disadvantage they might have. And if that means that they are the smallest, youngest child in class, so be it!

On the flip side of this problem is the strange fact that MOST of the parents who are practicing "Red Shirting" are the wealthy, well off parents. These families are statistically the LEAST at risk for dropping out of school or failing. Statistically the rich kids stay in school, end up in college, get tutoring if they need it, are generally looked up to by their peers, and participate in extracurricular activities. The poor kids are more at risk to drop out for a variety of reasons including getting a job, poor influence at home... etc. They may not have the resources to accommodate tutoring needs and might not have the time or resources to allow for extracurriculars. Besides that, poor families often have two working parents and therefore their kids attend daycare, which is VERY costly. They want to send their kids to school as early as possible to forgo further daycare bills and allow for both parents to maintain their full time jobs. Rich families often have one parent who stays at home, or can afford daycare costs and do not NEED to send their kids to school right away, allowing them to "Red Shirt" and keep their kid back a year, therefore giving them the advantage over the poor kids. This furthers the gap in education between the Upper class and the Lower class.

On a completely different note (for all of my sci-fi fans out there)... Who would want to be known as a "Red Shirt" anyway? Am I Right?

This Blog post has been sponsored by Studypoint. All opinions expressed in this post are my own and are not associated with my sponsor in any way. Thanks for listening!