Upon my arrival to Trinity College I learned something interesting when sharing our birthdays and ages at orientation; something that I hadn’t given much thought to until now. I am one of my youngest friends here and I am born in April, the fourth month of the year! It really surprised me to learn that students are in the same class but almost a full year or two older than me. Different states have different cut offs so I assumed that it was as simple as that, but then I learned of the redshirting phenomenon. Redshirting refers to the practice of postponing entering school with the intent that your child will have an advantage. Redshirting has created yet another inequality in the United Stated public education system. With that said, my interest is in researching: Is it immoral for parents to give their child the advantage of redshirting? And furthermore, are they cheating the system in doing so? What impact does redshirting have on the success of children’s lives in and outside of the classroom? And what inequalities have the practice of redshirting created?
Redshirting comes from the practice used by college athletic teams, a technique where an athlete sits out for a season. Redshirting is important because studies have shown that parents that are redshirting their children are more affluent. Not all students are able to get this advantage because there are parents who must put their children in school as soon as possible in order to defecate childcare costs (Schmidt). This ties in to another inequality in schooling that is a popular phenomenon called cultural capital. Cultural capital is when a student comes from an affluent family and are culturally exposed and educated before they even enter school. The students who are commonly redshirted are affluent and have already had many cultural and educational experiences before entering school and on top of that, redshirting gives them the opportunity for an additional year for culturally educating. Not only does this give the children a year for more cultural experiences, but also another year for their brain to develop. Studies have shown that there is a substantial difference in a child’s brain from year five to year six; a difference much greater than the difference between a twenty and twenty-one year olds (Konnikova). There is also a substantial amount of data on the social advantage redshirted students are getting. Research has shown that the older students in the class are typically the ones who take leadership positions and they also have an advantage in sports, because redshirted students are typically bigger because of that extra year of growth.
However, parents aren’t the only ones who are taking advantage of the system, the schools are as well. Schools aren’t necessarily opposed to redshirting because it is also beneficial to them, holding back kids at entry may order up the schools standardize testing scores (Safer). The working class parents who cannot financially keep their children back and the typically more affluent children are the ones redshirted they are more developed. Research has shown that the poorer students repeat grades three times more than more affluent children (Hansen- Bundy). The achievement gap tends to be a popular topic when it comes to the U.S education system. The achievement gap is high and some studies have shown that redshirting has contributed to this gap(Hansen-Bundy).
I started my research watching an intriguing 60 minutes on CBS by reporter Morley Safer. This informative 60 minutes started to get me thinking about the short and long term affects that redshirting has on a student, and also the disparity that it has created in the U.S education system – causing problems in both private and public systems. I read different blog posts and continued to further my research finding something that I originally hadn’t thought twice about was such a popular phenomenon with a lot of scrutiny around it. I also found several book reviews and books that have substantial data showing the ramifications that redshirting is having on the lives of the individual student that was redshirted as well as the effects that it has on the students classmates. I always assumed the purpose of holding a child back was so that they are not the youngest in their grade, but my research has proven that this phenomenon has a much larger effect on the student, his/her peers, and the education system as a whole.
Hansen – Bundy, Benjy. “Political MoJo.” Mother Jones. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Apr. 2014.
Konnikova, Maria. “Youngest Kid, Smartest Kid?” The New Yorker. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Apr. 2014.
Moyer, Melinda. “Can Your Kid Hack It in Kindergarten, or Should You Redshirt Him?” Slate Magazine. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Apr. 2014.
Safer, Morley. “Redshirting:Holding Kids Back from Kindergarten.” CBS. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Apr. 2014.
Schmidt, Michelle. “Kindergarten ‘Redshirting’: A Leg Up or an Unfair Advantage?” SparkPeople. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Apr. 2014.