As we enter the school year, this. Only this.
What you see above is a post on my Facebook page, Growing Children.
In 12 days it has reached more than 599,000 people. My page has only about 3,500 followers, so I think this amounts to going viral. And it’s still going.
It’s going viral because people know that it’s totally unnecessary to sacrifice a healthy childhood on the altar of test-oriented schooling. And they are fed up with academics in preschool, lost recesses and testing, testing, testing. And teaching to tests. And the mindset that learning is about performing for a reward like a trained seal.
People intuit what research shows, which is that learning that lasts is rooted in curiosity. When we teach to the test we dampen both curiosity and joy in learning. It’s not only possible, but effective, to let children be their normal, healthy curious selves as a foundation for learning.
Read here about the research that shows that curiosity turbo charges learning:
Our education system is built on the disproven idea that it makes sense to treat kids like trained seals, to train kids to learn by giving them praise, grades, and in some cases even candy or money.
Whole bodies of research show how that this approach always backfires. Alfie Kohn’s book Punished by Rewards summarizes this research.
What would education look like if we stopped treating kids like trained seals? Is it possible to run an effective school without grades and tests? What would it look like if the healthy development of children was the first priority at school?
My own teaching memoir, A Gift of Wonder shows a school devoted to healthy child development. It has no grades and very few tests. While the book is set in an independent Waldorf school, it is written with public school in mind. There is no reason why the storytelling, natural curiosity and healthy sense of wonder that I show in my memoir can’t be the bedrock for learning in public schools.
Your child’s mental health is far more important than their grades. Work in your community toward schooling that supports children’s mental health. Schools should them children play often. School should let children be curious and creative.
In short, school should not ruin childhood.