Today I have excerpts from three recent articles that all relate to Joy of Learning (or lack thereof). The first is about the depressing lack of engagement in school reported by US middle and high school kids. The second is by an elementary school principal about how she came to end "useless homework" at her school. The third is by Rae Pica, about the importance of dramatic play for young kids, with ideas for getting this message out to more adults.
Scott McLeod (as reposted by Matt Renwick): "The biggest indictment of our schools is not their failure to raise test scores above some politically-determined line of ‘proficiency.’ It’s that – day in and day out – they routinely ignore the fact that our children are bored, disengaged, and disempowered. We’ve known this forever, but we have yet to really care about it in a way that would drive substantive changes in practice. The disenfranchisement of our youth continues to happen in the very institutions that are allegedly preparing them to be ‘lifelong learners’."
Me: In this post, Scott McLeod (reposted by Matt Renwick) shares, in the form of graphs, the results from the latest Gallup poll regarding engagement levels of middle and high school students. The results ought to spark a revolution. Something is wrong with an educational system in which less than a third of high school students (out of a million surveyed) report being engaged in school. Or this: less than half of fifth graders report having fun in school, and the percentage drops to 17% by 11th grade. Even fewer kids report being able to do what they do best every day. This, I think, is a tragedy.
Katie Charner-Laird (in a piece reprinted by Valerie Strauss in The Washington Post): "But when I finally did pick up “The Homework Myth,” I couldn’t put it down. One by one, my reasons for considering homework an essential part of the elementary school experience were dismantled... So in 2014, Cambridgeport became “the school that doesn’t give homework,” yet I heard repeatedly from students, teachers, and parents about the significant, meaningful work they are doing at home... Our school may be giving less homework but we have more students engaged in more meaningful learning activities at home than ever before."
Me: I quite liked this piece, about an elementary school principal who started out believing in the benefits of homework, but was won over by the arguments against it. Her school ended up still assigning homework, but this was focused on open-ended assignments to read and write, rather than dull worksheets and the like. I thought that this article struck a nice balance, and offered hope for the future.
Rae Pica: "Unfortunately, play is now too often considered “frivolous” and unrelated to learning. Few people, it seems, understand its connection to brain and cognitive development. So I invited Ann Barbour and Deborah McNelis to Studentcentricity to explore that connection, specifically as it relates to dramatic play."
Deb McNelis: "Our education system and entire society cannot afford to continue to allow large numbers of children to miss out on the positive and essential experiences that contribute to strong brain connections as a result of play. It is needed at every age as the brain develops, but interactive and imaginative opportunities are critical during early childhood. The costs in terms of lost potential and increasing rates of emotional and behavioral problems are too high."
Me: What I've seen is that my kindergarten-age daughter NEEDS dramatic play. At home, she is constantly pretending to be someone else: an veterinarian for stuffed animals, a baby, a parent, a pirate. As far as I know, she has no opportunities for dramatic play while in school. Perhaps during recess... I can only hope.