Folks! This is an excerpt from Their Name Is Today: Reclaiming Childhood in a Hostile World, by Johann Christoph Arnold, a counselor, speaker and writer on family, parenting, and education issues. He is also co-founder of the Breaking the Cycle program, teaching students in public schools about nonviolent conflict resolution. His new book takes on, among other things, standardized testing. More at TheirNameIsToday.com.
Their Name is Today – Johann Christoph Arnold
Will 2014 be remembered as the year Common Core scuttled the last vestiges of individuality and creative teaching?
True education can never be forced – a child has to want to learn. This longing is often locked deep inside, and it is the teacher’s task to discover and encourage it. But teaching has probably never been as difficult as it is now. The most vital part of the work is not academic. Children need time to breathe in and breathe out – time to play. They are not computers or robots that can be programmed according to our wishes.
All good teachers know that play for its own sake is irreplaceable in a child’s life. Not only is it the best method of early education, but it’s also essential for the growth of a child’s spirit. In a way, play ought to require no further defense; it defines childhood. Why, then, does it continue to vanish from young children’s lives?
Some of the worst changes have originated from government-mandated academic programs that rob children of their chance to learn through play and burden teachers with ever more pressure and paperwork. As I watch this trend grow every year, I agree with Albert Einstein’s observation: “It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education.”
The motives behind standardization often sound right. Politicians say they want to “fix” our broken educational system so our children can compete on the global stage. They talk about going back to basics, mastering the three Rs, and documenting measurable results. And many of these mandates are a direct result of parents and voters calling for change.
But we should look more closely at the kind of change that children need. Programs handed down from distant political establishments come with strings attached. Additional paperwork removes teachers from the children who need their care. Children are bewildered by tests and diagnostics at an age when they should be playing. Decision-makers, it seems, ignore the wisdom of the teachers who could – and do – tell them how children learn.
Teaching requires great love, wisdom, and patience. It takes time to discover the best in each child, and then to draw it out. What happens when teachers are robbed of this precious time? When will they get the chance to build a relationship with each child through simple interaction and play, which is when the best teaching moments actually occur?
Each has a unique set of abilities, created for a special purpose. So why force a common educational standard on them? We know children learn best through playing, but play also brings joy, contentment, and detachment from the troubles of the day. In our frantically over-scheduled culture, every child should have a right to play.
Lenore here: Speaking of which, check out these photos of recess around the world. I wonder if other countries are cutting back on theirs to make more time for test prep?
NOTE: You can get a free copy of “Their Name is Today” here. Just click on “Request a Review Copy.”