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Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Lifeby Peter Gray
Synopses & Reviews
Our children spend their days being passively instructed, and made to sit still and take tests—often against their will. We call this imprisonment schooling, yet wonder why kids become bored and misbehave. Even outside of school children today seldom play and explore without adult supervision, and are afforded few opportunities to control their own lives. The result: anxious, unfocused children who see schooling—and life—as a series of hoops to struggle through.
In Free to Learn, developmental psychologist Peter Gray argues that our children, if free to pursue their own interests through play, will not only learn all they need to know, but will do so with energy and passion. Children come into this world burning to learn, equipped with the curiosity, playfulness, and sociability to direct their own education. Yet we have squelched such instincts in a school model originally developed to indoctrinate, not to promote intellectual growth.
To foster children who will thrive in todays constantly changing world, we must entrust them to steer their own learning and development. Drawing on evidence from anthropology, psychology, and history, Gray demonstrates that free play is the primary means by which children learn to control their lives, solve problems, get along with peers, and become emotionally resilient. This capacity to learn through play evolved long ago, in hunter-gatherer bands where children acquired the skills of the culture through their own initiatives. And these instincts still operate remarkably well today, as studies at alternative, democratically administered schools show. When children are in charge of their own education, they learn better—and at lower cost than the traditional model of coercive schooling.
A brave, counterintuitive proposal for freeing our children from the shackles of the curiosity-killing institution we call school, Free to Learn suggests that its time to stop asking whats wrong with our children, and start asking whats wrong with the system. It shows how we can act—both as parents and as members of society—to improve childrens lives and promote their happiness and learning.
"Developmental psychologist Gray declares that 'school is prison, but almost nobody beyond school age says it.' In this energetic though repetitive manifesto, Gray powerfully argues that schools inhibit learning by ' with the development of personal responsibility and self-direction' by 'turning learning into work' and reducing 'diversity in skills and knowledge.' Gray suggests that children possess a natural instinct to educate themselves, and through unstructured play and exploration with individuals of all ages, they will blossom and develop into confident individuals. Drawing on various psychological case studies as well as an in-depth examination of the Sudbury Valley School in Framingham, Mass., Gray shows that children learning in 'unschooled' environments demonstrate a deep desire to learn, as well as a capacity for self-control, and display feelings of anxiety and depression far less than students in a structured environment. Many educators and parents may find Gray's ideas naÃ¯ve and impractical, but his vivid illustrations of the 'power of play' to shape an individual are bound to provoke a renewed conversation about turning the tide in an educational system that fosters conformity and inhibits creative thinking. Agent: Jill Marsal, Marsal Lyon Literary Agency." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Children come into this world burning to learn, but the enduring lesson of school is that learning is work, to be avoided however possible. In Free to Learn, developmental psychologist Peter Gray shows that we can reverse the harmful effects of modern schooling by liberating our children to pursue their own interests through self-directed play. Gray, who has devoted his research career to understanding the biological foundations of education, argues that to promote learning, we must engage the core aspects of human nature—curiosity, playfulness, and sociability—instead of inhibiting them. A brave, counterintuitive proposal for freeing our children from the shackles of the curiosity-killing institution we call school, Free to Learn shows that its time to stop asking whats wrong with our children and start asking whats wrong with the system.
About the Author
Peter Gray has devoted his research career to understanding the biological foundations of education. He is a research professor in the department of psychology at Boston College and writes a popular blog called Freedom to Learn for Psychology Today. He is also the author of a leading psychology textbook, Psychology, currently in its 6th edition. Gray has appeared as a guest expert on child development on various radio and television outlets, including NPR, The Today Show, CNN International, and has been quoted in magazines and newspapers, including The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Mens Health, and the Boston Globe.
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