Saturday, September 10, 2016

The Worst Thieves

Today I was reading through blogs and email newsletters and other things. I saw something and it will not let me go. I keep thinking about it. Austin Kleon posted a link in his newsletter. He's not a teacher but an author. But what he posted is - to me - a huge commentary on education.

His link was a photo of a poster that protested children working in textile mills. The caption on that quote is--
The worst thief is he who steals the playtime of children. (W.D. Haywood)
 I stared at this quote. Later I read it to my wife and showed it to her. If I ever write a book about play or young children, this quote is going in it.

I think this is where our education system has been in recent times. Leaders are stealing the playtime of children. Stealing it from the classroom. Stealing it from recess. Stealing it from home. Stealing it younger and younger.

Overall, I see this happening more and more. Academics being moved down the grades. When what really should happen is play and investigation and exploration moving up the grades. As David Elkind says: "Quality early childhood education should be the model for education at all levels."

But I cannot cast the "thief" label without caution. I, too, sometimes steal the playtime. I have agendas or goals. I have planned investigations that are led by me. I push what I think should happen over where the children's play wants to go. Am I stealing playtime (and valuable learning experiences) from children?

Let's look for ways to give playtime rather than steal it away. After all, that's when the real learning happens - play directed by the child to investigate what he is thinking.

The quote above is going to join my recent list of memorable ones. And here's another one from Rae Pica: "I shouldn't have to defend play for children any more than I should have to defend their eating, sleeping, and breathing."

We shouldn't need to defend play. And we shouldn't need to keep it safe from thieves. Let's just get out of the kids' way.

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