25 years ago this week, Congress passed the groundbreaking “Early Walking” legislation introducing a national curriculum to ensure early walking in all children. In commemoration, we look back now at the genesis of a law that forever did away with the hit and miss style of learning to walk.
The signs were all there, of course. For years before Early Walking legislation was even conceived, the U.S. lagged behind other countries in Science and Math. Though early education and a tougher national curriculum made some inroads, it wasn’t until scientists discovered the benefits of early walking that a real breakthrough was made. Dr. Janet Ross, walking specialist and head of the American Institute of Early Walking, explains. “We were studying early childhood in China when we discovered that on average, Chinese children began walking a full six months earlier than did children in the U.S. It was astonishing! The correlations between walking and cognitive abilities that lead to excellence in Sciences, Math, even reading were instantly clear.”
As a result, Ross and her team developed a hands on early walking curriculum with the goal of ensuring that every U.S. child would walk before the age of 12 months.
“The one year benchmark is key,” says Ross. “A child who walks by 12 months will score higher on standardized tests and do better in sciences and maths. There is almost no margin of error in over 25 years of research and implementation.”
As with any such scientific breakthroughs and/or legislation, there are critics. We spoke to Arthur Edwards, leader of the N.Y. Chapter of the growing “Return to Natural Walking” movement.
“This legislations is harmful,” says Edwards. “Walking rates before the implementation of this legislation were virtually 100%. Did every kid walk at 12 months? No, but unless they had a physical handicap or injury, they DID learn to walk. Now we’ve got chair bound kids all over the place and drug companies making a fortune off of their ‘muscle reprogramming’ formulas. If we’d just let kids learn to walk on their own, like they did for thousands of years, none of this would be necessary.”
When presented with the reform argument, Dr. Ross smiled. “Without this legislation and national walking curriculum, we would be far worse off than we are today. Children who have trouble and remain immobile are getting the help they need in the form of mobility chairs and walking specialists. Had we not taken the measures we did, it is likely we would have a national epidemic of delayed or completely arrested walking and overall intelligence. The signs were all there – we just hadn’t ‘connected the dots’ so to speak. Allowing children to learn to walk on their own would be a disaster on a scale we simply can’t afford. Parents don’t have the time to teach their kids to walk; how many families can afford to lose one income so that the parent can spend 6-8 hours a day on a curriculum best taught by experts?”
On the other hand, Edwards points out that national test scores have not made the quantum leap projected by proponents since the institution of the Early Walking Curriculum. They have improved, but according to Edwards, this could be due to any number of factors. “Look at the statistics. Look at countries who don’t have a mandatory walking curriculum. They generally have a higher overall mobility rate, and their kids still do as well or better than kids in the U.S. when it comes to education.”
Despite the critics, it is unlikely that challenges to the existing legislation from radical natural walking groups will be effective. What parent wants to risk their child’s future by allowing them to learn to walk on their own? After 25 years, an entire generation has grown up with higher cognitive skills due to the Early Walking Curriculum. Now that some of them are parents themselves, we see no indication that they will settle for anything less for their own children.