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Friday, April 27, 2012

Kids, Wet Dogs, and Boxcutters: What's to Become of the Family?

By Carl Reichert (1836-1918) (
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
I tested a Kindergartner with the Preschool Language Scale (PLS) today, and, he got to "it".... the item at the end of the test that makes me think about winds of change.

In my early years as a speech pathologist, I worked in a preschool special education program, and I gave the PLS a lot.  Due to the severity of the challenges my students faced, I didn't administer the more difficult items at the end of the test much.  But, when I did, it entailed reading the story of "Mike, Pam, and Buddy".  The story went something like this (in adult language):

Mike and Pam have a dog named Buddy.  Buddy sleeps outside and is getting awfully wet when it rains.  Mike and Pam are concerned about Buddy, so, when Dad comes home from work, they discuss the problem with him.  Dad goes out to the garage, gets boards and tools, and works with the kids to fashion a dog house for Buddy.  The children are relieved and Buddy is both dry and delighted.

Okay, simple enough concept right?

In 2002, a new edition of the PLS came out.  Tests that are used diagnostically must be updated regularly, so that they are relevant to, and valid measurements for, the current population.  I am always pleased when a new test edition comes out, because, it is questionable, at best, to be administering test items that require today's kids to be familiar with, for instance, using a payphone.  (Remember those?  Payphones?  Your grandkids don't!)

On the day in 2002 that the new PLS arrived, I broke it open, sat down for my first administration, and finally arrived at the "Mike, Pam, and Buddy" story.  It now goes something like this:

Buddy sleeps outside.  When it rains, he gets awfully wet.  Mike and Pam are concerned.  They sit down at the table, put their heads together, and come up with a plan. They then go outside, (without parental support or supervision), find a "sturdy box", cut windows and a door in it, and encouage Buddy to take up residence.  Buddy runs off, gets his blanket, drags it inside.  Children, and dog, are pleased as the proverbial punch. 

Ansdell Richard The Gamekeeper
Richard Ansdell [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons
I'm entirely unsure how Buddy will feel in the next rainstorm under his soggy, collapsed box.  I am also unsure where Mom is when they are using the knife?, scissors?, to cut the box up.  Perhaps she  is at work?  Out with her boyfriend?  Facebooking on her cell phone?  I am guessing that there is no dad in the picture, because...well, I work in public school. I know how it is.

Is the new Mike and Pam story the downfall of society?  No, but it is one small sign of widespread social change....and not just in structure, but in expectations.

Back in 2002, this story change disturbed me...not because the test item is no longer a valid measure of story recall, but because it depicts, apparently, a story that is relevant and familiar to today's preschoolers and Kindergartners.

I understand why changes like this are made.Folks don't want kids to feel badly if they don't have what were once considered ideal, or even adequate, life situations.  I get that.  No one wants kids to feel bad.  Not even cranky, old, mean conservative ladies.

Boxer vor seiner Hütte
By English: see description field (
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
But, here's the problem:  Kids grow up to be adults. Adults (hopefully) try to do what is right and good for their kids.  Adults have ideas about what is right and good that they developed when they themselves were kids.  Present day adults have a responsibility to teach present day kids what is right and good.

It is right and good that kids should be loved and cared for.  It is right and good that kids should have parental supervison, guidance, and istruction.  It is right and good that kids should have a dad in  their lives.  It is right and good that parents should be one another.

We actually live in a time, at this point, when those are controversial statements.

Do those statements imply that every individual and family will accomplish those things? Of course not.  But, if we stop acknowledging and promoting the ideal, then one will accomplish those things.

Most kids are only exposed to family members of their parents' and grandparents' generations.  This means that, generally, if something of value is misplaced, it will only take a couple of generations for it to be gone for good.

There are things that are good.  There are things that are right.  Some situations are better than others. Pretending that anything goes, just to make sure that no one feels badly, is a first class ticket to destruction at worst, and mediocrity, at best.

And that,... like it or not...., is what this old broad has to say about that.

Wondering what your child should be able to do by the end of Kindergarten?
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  1. Wow, this is quite the truth, and quite sad. I agree and am not surprised at the way the story went. Thank you for your thoughts on this! Visiting from Pieces of Amy! :)

    Nicole at Working Kansas Homemaker

  2. What a sad commentary on our times, but so true! Thanks for linking!


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