Monday, December 05, 2016

The Only Way To Understand Play

I'm so happy to live in a world in which I don't need to defend the educational benefits of turquoise water, wooden boats, chop sticks, clothes pins, and rocks.

In fact, I'm often shocked when confronted with a person who doesn't get it, who sees children as some sort of raw wood with the basic shape of a finished vessel perhaps, but in need of fixing or filling or painting or trimming or rigging.

These are not bad people. They have good intentions in wanting to mold little bodies and minds into a version of what a person ought to be, one that they feel will sail most uprightly upon the "real" seas of life.

No, they are not bad, but they are ignorant and often cocksure, convinced by the results of their own mental experiments that "prove" that more rigor, longer hours, more academics, and uniform standards will lead to smarter kids. They start from the perverse premise that knowing stuff is more important than knowing how to know. And their entire body of "knowledge" comes from a place of suppositions, books, standardized tests, and analysis so far removed from a classroom that even what they do "know" is a mere abstraction of the "real" seas of our children's lives. I'm so happy I don't need to spend my days convincing them.

I'm so happy I don't need to be dissecting our play, looking for proof that education is taking place, that they are learning this or they are learning that. I'm so happy that the people around me, the parents who send their children to our school, understand this.

Perhaps it's because they are there with us in the classroom instead of reading studies and reviewing test scores. They are right here playing alongside the kids, performing their own experiments with turquoise water, wooden boats, chop sticks, clothes pins, and rocks. They are rolling up their sleeves and doing it. And that's really the only way to understand play.

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