Trendspotting: Redshirting

Posted on April 17, 2012 by Angie Argabrite

Not so long ago, if we wanted our children to get ahead, we’d see to it that they skipped a grade. But more of today’s children, in America especially, are being held back so as to have a competitive advantage over their classmates. “60 Minutes” reports that nearly a quarter of some kindergarten classrooms are populated by 6-year-olds, meaning there’s as much as an 18-month age spread. The trend of “redshirting” 5-year-olds—a term borrowed from the practice of postponing college athletes from participating in competitive games—has more than tripled since the 1970s, with boys more likely to be held back than girls, whites more than minorities, and the rich more than the poor. In 2010, California passed the Kindergarten Readiness Act, advancing the date by which children must turn 5 to start kindergarten. The redshirting trend was propelled by an unlikely source: Malcolm Gladwell, in his 2008 book Outliers, noted that winter birthdays are predominant in certain sports. He theorizes that kids who begin kindergarten later become bigger, stronger and more competitive not just in kindergarten but throughout their lives, athletically or otherwise. A recent study indicates that the youngest children in the academic year are 20 percent less likely than those with September birthdays to attend prestigious colleges. Not everyone is thrilled with the inequity redshirting has introduced to the kindergarten classroom. Much has been made, too, about redshirting being the province of today’s “hyperparents.” Note to marketers: These are motivated buyers.

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