The Power of Play

David Elkind's "The Power of Play" is coming out in Jan'07 but NPR has a summary of the book.

I love this quote from Surgeon General's Conference on Children's Mental Health in 2000:
[due to little or no play time:] "Growing numbers of children are suffering needlessly because their emotional, behavioral and developmental needs are not being met by the very institutions that were explicitly created to take care of them." [...] the surgeon general also suggests that some two-thirds of children in this country suffer one or another health problem. Thirteen percent of our children are obese. We have more than 2 million children on Ritalin and other ADHD medications. This may be the first generation of American children who are less healthy than their parents. [bold is my own highlighting]
And he gets at my favorite topic of the evils of schooling (and why I prefer "home education" not homeschooling):
Our schools are now contributing to the suppression of curiosity, imagination and fantasy. Some 40 thousand (and counting) elementary schools have eliminated recess in favor of more time for academics. Our increasingly test-driven curricula have all but eliminated creative, and playful teaching practices. Increasingly rote-learning methods are used to prepare children for the all too frequent assessments. Brazilian educator Paulo Freire wrote that education either "liberates" or "domesticates." Colonial powers once used rote-learning methods to domesticate the natives of the country, and to make them obedient to external authority. Rote learning is an anathema to, critical, and innovative, thinking.
Which is why I'm against memorization for its own sake and any kind of standardized testing -- I'm a big advocate of anti-testing or non-testing. It's one thing to check one's proficiency (like driving skills) but any artificial testing (especially the standardized kind) orients the people (children and adults) to obey arbitrary authority rather than to encourage independent thoughts and actions. The purpose of testing, contrary to what most people have been brainwashed to believe, is not to see how much you know of a given material but how successfully you can guess what answers "they" are looking for. The point of prep-tests and pre-tests and test taking courses (and even "pop quizzes") are to help you get used to the kind of answers they are seeking.

A proficiency check is how consistently can you do a certain action with predefined "goal" (like making 9 out of 10 free throws or firing a gun within 1 inch of the bullseye). Testing is more exact: either you get it right or you don't. Some things like math or physics is easier to test for but even in math there are many theorems and paths you can take to get to the "right" answer -- but if you don't take the "acceptable" path, you probably will not get the grade. With spelling, it is mere rote memorization: you learn to obey and do one thing only the one way.

Getting back to Elkind's writing, here's my favorite excerpt:
I now appreciate that the silencing of children's play, is as harmful to healthy development, if not more so, than is the hurrying of children to grow up too fast too soon.
And my favorite advice:
Remember that it's okay for kids to be bored.
Elkind's older books "Hurried Child" and "Ties that Stress" sound interesting, as well. I look forward to reading them as soon as we move (although my to-read list is always growing). I suspect, however, that what he says will not be too different from "Einstein never used flash cards" (the subtitle is 'How our Children Really Learn and Why They Need to Play More and Memorize Less').

Copyright 2006, DannyHSDad, All Rights Reserved.