'Redshirting': Is it cheating to hold your kid back a year?July 9, 2012 @ 7:32 am (Updated: 10:47 am - 7/9/12 )
More parents are holding their kids back a year before starting kindergarten, sparking a growing debate. (AP file)
It used to be most kids entered kindergarten when they were 5-years-old. But more and more parents are holding them back a year to give them a leg up socially, academically, and athletically. It's called "redshirting," and it's sparking a big debate about whether parents are cheating the system.
"I'm just hearing this more and more," said Bill Radke, the parent of several kids, including a 5-year-old daughter.
"Boys tend to start school a little bit academically behind anyway, so the parents are thinking, 'If I hold this child back then all of a sudden he'll be at the top of his class rather than struggling,'" said co-host Linda Thomas on Seattle's Morning News.
"The funny thing is, that in the past if you wanted your kid to get ahead, you would want him to skip a grade. Now in order to get ahead, you want him to stay back a year," said Samuel Meisels, president of Chicago's Erikson Institute, in Sunday night's 60 Minutes report on redshirting. But while redshirting may be appropriate for some kids, Meisels disputes the notion that it gives kids a leg up academically.
"I think that as children get older that whatever advantage is conferred by starting school a year older decreases dramatically," he said.
But author Malcolm Gladwell disagree. His best-selling book "Outliers" has become a bible of sorts for parents of 4 and 5-year-olds. He cites what he calls a "cumulative advantage" children gain in everything from academics to athletics.
"That is the idea that a little extra nudge ahead when you're 6 can mean that you're slightly better positioned when you're 7, and that means you're slightly better positioned when you're 8, and so on. And you can see this pattern in one field after another."
Seattle's Morning News co-host Tom Tangney wonders if he should have redshirted his younger daughter. She was born in August and was generally the youngest in her class throughout her school-age years.
"I'm wondering if she had another year's life experience, if she might have been a little more successful in drama and gotten a better shot at better roles if she had been more mature and older and her voice had matured and all of that," Tangney said.
There are some questions of fairness. Lower income families generally can't afford the option.
"People who can hold their kid back another year tend to be people who have enough money to afford another year of preschool or daycare or whatever it is," observed Radke. And that means some kids have to compete with others as much as 18 months older and bigger in the classroom or on the field.
But ultimately, most parents agree they'll do whatever is in the best interest of their own children, giving them every advantage possible.
What do you think?
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