Monday, April 8, 2013

Education and Freedom

Peter Gray on our schools and the way we raise our children:
I wouldn’t say that my son had trouble learning in a traditional school, certainly not any more so than anyone else. I would say, rather, that he found that he was not free in school to follow his own interests, ask his own questions, solve problems in his own way, and present his own ideas honestly. He found it to infringe on his rights as a human being. Once he finally convinced his mother and me of this, we found a very different school—a school that is really a setting for self-directed learning. Ultimately, this experience led me to change the direction of my research. I began to focus on how children educate themselves—largely through free play and exploration—when they are free to do so and are provided with a setting that optimizes their ability to do so. . . .
I find this sort of thing very appealing myself, but sadly the research does not support this approach for most kids. Some kids learn a lot in a self-directed environment, but many learn little. I was struck by the statement that traditional schooling infringed on the child's rights; that is exactly how my second son feels, and traditional education is not working very well for him.

This is also interesting:
The decline in children’s freedom to play and explore, undirected by adults, has been gradual over the past 50 or 60 years. This gradual decline has been accompanied by a gradual increase in anxiety, depression, and other mental disorders in children. Because the change is gradual, people don’t necessarily see it. Yet, over time, the change has been dramatic. Today, by unchanged measures, the rates of anxiety disorders and major depression in children and adolescents are five to eight times what they were in the 1950s. When people see that their own children are depressed or anxious, they tend to blame themselves, as parents, rather than the social conditions that have deprived children of freedom. Or they assume that this is just a normal part of childhood or adolescence, because it is so common.
I wonder about this myself. Adults have been on a crusade to take the pain and suffering out of childhood, but the result is an anxious generation.

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