Monday, July 23, 2012

Another sign that our culture has lost its marbles

“Especially these days, they contend, when children spend more time in front of screens and less time in unsupervised play, kids need careful adult guidance and instruction before they are able to play in a productive way.” -- from The New York Times Magazine (emphasis added).

I am more thankful every day that I grew up when I did and had the parents that I had (as opposed to, say, this person).

Some sanity here from Alfie Kohn, who argues that “‘Play’ is being sneakily redefined.”

(Links c/o Alfie Kohn and northTOspy)


Karen W said...

I find the idea of play plans and required make-believe play to be horrifying. Do they ever consider that kids have different personalities and that shy/introverted kids, for example, might hate this sort of thing?

As an aside, I wish journalists could trouble themselves to visit some Montessori programs. Kids can learn self-control without being coached on how to properly play pretend.

As for the summer learning activities list--I love how she suggests getting kids to help in the kitchen for reading, math, and science skills. What about it just being nice for kids to know how to prepare food and having them lend a hand with household tasks?

I am starting to think that summer vacations can't be too long.

FedUpMom said...

Ugh. I've just been tangling with a commentor over at StopHomework who complained that children think they can do whatever they want over summer vacation. Hello? It's called VACATION!

My Older Daughter got addicted to Doctor Who and watched so many episodes in a row that she went completely nocturnal. There's a vacation accomplishment for you!

Chris said...

FedUpMom -- something very similar has been happening in our house!

KarenW -- Yes, it's the same double-standard we've seen before. We must intervene to ensure that all of our children's spare-time activities are "productive" -- even though no adults in their right mind would ever apply that standard to themselves.

One of the points Kohn makes is that as soon as you start talking about the educational value of play, you risk legitimizing the idea that play is valuable only if it has educational value. Why not just give the kids a break and let them play, regardless of whether it raises their standardized test scores? That's one of the reasons why I try to advocate for longer lunch periods not just because lunch improves learning and teaches social skills, etc., but because kids deserve a decent social break in their day just like anyone else. Instead, our school sees the less-then-fifteen-minute lunch period as the time to teach "restaurant expectations." Ugh.

As for wishing that summer vacation were longer, I couldn't agree more. What a shame that the vacation ends right when the outdoor temperatures might actually be getting tolerable.

Chris said...

One thing I always wonder about the people who are so concerned about "summer learning loss" -- do they not realize that compulsory school ends at some point? What's going to happen to all that learning a few months after graduation? Everyone is very concerned about whether the kids' "learning" shows up on a standardized test a few weeks or months later, but no one seems to care how much of it they actually retain as adults.

Suzanne Lamb said...

I would like to place a copy of Frank Smith's _The Book of Learning and Forgetting_ in the hands of every school administrator pushing activities to combat "summer learning loss." Smith makes the best distinction I've ever come across between real, permanent learning and the kind of learning encouraged to produce good test scores.

This afternoon--after several days spent mostly playing with Beyblades (those battling tops)--my eight-year-old son told me he'd figured out that the Beyblade called Horoseus was named for the Egyptian god Horus. I have no idea how he even learned about Horus. He's not sure, either. Last week we were watching an old episode of the 1980s time-travel show Voyagers!, and my son said of a World War I airplane in the show, "Hey, I know what that's called. It's a S-O-P-W-I-T-H Camel." (He spelled it out because he wasn't sure of the pronunciation.) I looked it up, and he was right. He said he knew the name because there had a been a Sopwith Camel model in his Lego catalog. I'm sure the school reading experts would consider the Lego catalog "fluff" summer reading material.

Chris said...

Suzanne -- Thanks for the comment -- I'll definitely look for that book.

By the way, I knew what a Sopwith camel was at that age, too -- because of all the Snoopy comic books I read.

dancewme said...

great blog love the discussion, I too have seen many schools going down hill