Even If They Are Between The Ages Of 6 And 18

Even If They Are Between The Ages Of 6 And 18

A couple days ago I was talking with clinical and cognitive psychologist, and author of the book Changing Our Minds, Naomi Fisher.

She asserted that most of us are more or less fine with allowing preschoolers to play, which is to say, engage in self-directed learning. She then pointed out that this is also how we expect adults to learn. We don't compel them to attend school unless they want to, they can learn whatever they want to learn, they can quit when they want, they can learn through videos, books, conversations, or whatever method suits them.

"The only humans we don't trust to educate themselves are the children in between."

There is no science or research or data that suggests that we are, between the ages of 6 and 18, suddenly rendered incapable of learning through our own activities and processes. Nor is there any evidence that what we do to children in the name of school improves their educational prospects over simply leaving them to it.

In play-based preschool, what children need from us is, as I wrote yesterday (quoting Alison Gopnik), is "a protected space for love, safety, and stability" in order to thrive, each in their own unique way. We know that when those needs are met, children will follow their curiosity and the adults' job is to provide an environment that contains a variety of "beautiful" materials and opportunities. Likewise with adult learning, we expect them to rely on their self-motivation and see our responsibility as little more than providing access to materials and opportunities like libraries, the internet, and community colleges. 

But with those kids, those kids in between, we bizarrely abandon curiosity and self-motivation in favor of rewards and punishments, compulsion, one-size-fits-all curricula, and environments that are little more than chairs, tables, textbooks, and lectures. It's almost as if we've created a completely arbitrary and tedious ordeal that we force this particular category of humans to endure in order to once more be free to learn.

One in ten American children will drop out of school and countless others will learn that they simply aren't very bright. A few will thrive, of course, but most are just trying to get through. They are unmotivated and we've made them that way. The really sick part is that there are those who see these children struggling and conclude that the solution is to start putting them through the ordeal at younger and younger ages. 

Doesn't it make more sense to study the motivated learners and apply those lessons to all humans, even if they are between the ages of 6 and 18?


If you're interested in learning more about creating a learning village that parents will wholeheartedly support, I've developed this 6-part course called The Empowered Educator: Partnering With Parents. As preschool educators, we don't just educate children, but their families as well. For the past 20 years, I've been working in a place that puts the tri-cornered relationship of child-parent-educator at the center, and over that time I've learned a great deal about how to work with families to create the kind of village every child needs and deserves. How would it be to have parents show up as allies? (Click this link to register and to learn more.) Discounts are available for groups.

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