This article makes me even more convinced that I've somehow wandered into a dystopic alternative world.
In gist, a big muckety professor of Education from the Oosa is telling an international conference on nursery schooling that teaching children under 7 to read is too much, too soon, and will probably put them off reading for life. While I realise I'm a bit exceptional in exactly how early I became literate, I did start learning to read before I was 5, and the habit has sort of stuck. 5 seems like as good an age as any to start learning to read, and I'm not sure why this person wants to extend our pre-literate years in an era where, despite declining book reading, literary itself is becoming an increasingly important tool.
She says that starting to teach children to read too early can have an especially bad impact on boys, and her explanation makes me suspect what the real cause is: 'For most boys they are growing up in cultures where they are expected to be assertive and active. In instruction they are passive and receptive and reactive, and in the long term that accounts for the negative effects. In most cultures girls tend to put up with instruction earlier and better'.
The problem, I think, is not developmental but cultural. Educationists need to respond to this better - simply abetting a general thugging-up and dumbing-down of society isn't quite the role of an educator. What these learned people need to do is find ways to combat this culturally-imposed stunting of the ability to learn.
But then, I've always believed that education is what helps us to transcend our culture, and that one's culture is something to be valued, but kept at a distance and selectively drawn from on a rational basis.