Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life [NOOK Book]

Overview

Our children spend their days being passively instructed, and made to sit still and take tests—often against their will. We call this imprisonment schooling, yet wonder why kids become bored and misbehave. Even outside of school children today seldom play and explore without adult supervision, and are afforded few opportunities to control their own lives. The result: anxious, unfocused children who see schooling—and life—as a series of hoops to...
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Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life

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Overview

Our children spend their days being passively instructed, and made to sit still and take tests—often against their will. We call this imprisonment schooling, yet wonder why kids become bored and misbehave. Even outside of school children today seldom play and explore without adult supervision, and are afforded few opportunities to control their own lives. The result: anxious, unfocused children who see schooling—and life—as a series of hoops to struggle through.

In Free to Learn, developmental psychologist Peter Gray argues that our children, if free to pursue their own interests through play, will not only learn all they need to know, but will do so with energy and passion. Children come into this world burning to learn, equipped with the curiosity, playfulness, and sociability to direct their own education. Yet we have squelched such instincts in a school model originally developed to indoctrinate, not to promote intellectual growth.

To foster children who will thrive in today’s constantly changing world, we must entrust them to steer their own learning and development. Drawing on evidence from anthropology, psychology, and history, Gray demonstrates that free play is the primary means by which children learn to control their lives, solve problems, get along with peers, and become emotionally resilient. This capacity to learn through play evolved long ago, in hunter-gatherer bands where children acquired the skills of the culture through their own initiatives. And these instincts still operate remarkably well today, as studies at alternative, democratically administered schools show. When children are in charge of their own education, they learn better—and at lower cost than the traditional model of coercive schooling.

A brave, counterintuitive proposal for freeing our children from the shackles of the curiosity-killing institution we call school, Free to Learn suggests that it’s time to stop asking what’s wrong with our children, and start asking what’s wrong with the system. It shows how we can act—both as parents and as members of society—to improve children’s lives and promote their happiness and learning.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Developmental psychologist Gray declares that “school is prison, but almost nobody beyond school age says it.” In this energetic though repetitive manifesto, Gray powerfully argues that schools inhibit learning by “ with the development of personal responsibility and self-direction” by “turning learning into work” and reducing “diversity in skills and knowledge.” Gray suggests that children possess a natural instinct to educate themselves, and through unstructured play and exploration with individuals of all ages, they will blossom and develop into confident individuals. Drawing on various psychological case studies as well as an in-depth examination of the Sudbury Valley School in Framingham, Mass., Gray shows that children learning in “unschooled” environments demonstrate a deep desire to learn, as well as a capacity for self-control, and display feelings of anxiety and depression far less than students in a structured environment. Many educators and parents may find Gray’s ideas naïve and impractical, but his vivid illustrations of the “power of play” to shape an individual are bound to provoke a renewed conversation about turning the tide in an educational system that fosters conformity and inhibits creative thinking. Agent: Jill Marsal, Marsal Lyon Literary Agency. (Mar.)
From the Publisher

Laurette Lynn, Unplugged Mom.com
"[A] well written, well organized and beautifully stated piece of work.... I emphatically recommend this book for any parent as well as any educator or anyone interested in improving education for our society."

Mothering.com
"[Free to Learn is] a powerful agent of transformation. I'd like to put a copy in the hands of every parent, teacher, and policy maker."

Publishers Weekly
“[E]nergetic...Gray powerfully argues that schools inhibit learning.... [Gray’s] vivid illustrations of the ‘power of play’ to shape an individual are bound to provoke a renewed conversation about turning the tide in an educational system that fosters conformity and inhibits creative thinking.”

Frank Forencich, author of Exuberant Animal and Change Your Body, Change the World
Free to Learn is a courageous and profoundly important book. Peter Gray joins the likes of Richard Louv and Alfie Kohn in speaking out for a more humane, compassionate and effective approach to education.”

Steven Pinker, Harvard College Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of How the Mind Works
“Peter Gray is one of the world’s experts on the evolution of childhood play, and applies his encyclopedic knowledge of psychology, and his humane voice, to the pressing issue of educational reform. Though I am not sure I agree with all of his recommendations, he forces us all to rethink our convictions on how schools should be designed to accommodate the ways that children learn.”

Lenore Skenazy, author of Free-Range Kids
“All kids love learning. Most don’t love school. That’s a disconnect we've avoided discussing — until this lightning bolt of a book. If you've ever wondered why your curious kid is turning into a sullen slug at school, Peter Gray’s Free to Learn has the answer. He also has the antidote.”

David Sloan Wilson, SUNY Distinguished Professor of Biology and Anthropology, Binghamton University, and author of Evolution for Everyone
“The modern educational system is like a wish made in a folk tale gone horribly wrong. Peter Gray's Free to Learn leads us out of the maze of unforeseen consequences to a more natural way of letting children educate themselves. Gray's message might seem too good to be true, but it rests upon a strong scientific foundation. Free to Learn can have an immediate impact on the children in your life.”

Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, author of Einstein Never Used Flash Cards and A Mandate for Playful Learning in Preschool
“A compelling and most enjoyable read. Gray illustrates how removing play from childhood, in combination with increasing the pressures of modern-day schooling, paradoxically reduces the very skills we want our children to learn. The decline of play is serious business.”

Stuart Brown, M.D., Founder and President, The National Institute for Play, and author of Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul
“Peter Gray’s Free to Learn is profoundly necessary as a fundamental illumination of the continuing tragedy and entrapment of both kids and their teachers in a generally failing and failed educational system. Gray demonstrates through science and evolutionary biology that the human species is designed to play, is built through play, and that for kids, play equals learning. Free to Learn is timely, paradigm shifting, and essential for our long term survival as adaptive humans.”

Kirkus Reviews
Psychology Today blogger Gray (Psychology/Boston Coll.) argues the need for radical reforms in our educational system. Describing himself as "an evolutionary developmental psychologist," he rests his theory on the claim that hunter-gatherer societies offer an educational model for today. Many will agree with his contention that the lives of today's children are far too scripted, with excessive homework and play dates substituting for the free-wheeling play of decades past. "Free play is nature's means of teaching children that they are not helpless," writes Gray. His conclusion that formal schooling is an infringement on children's freedom and should be abolished is more controversial--even more so since he grounds it in a mythical golden age preceding the invention of agriculture. The author makes the dubious suggestion that his assertions represent "compelling evidence that children's natural, hunter-gatherer ways of learning are sufficient for education in our culture, if we provide conditions that are equivalent." Switching to modern times, Gray indicts formal education and compares schools to prisons. Charging that public education denies children their liberty "without just cause and due process," he contends that this interferes with their development of personal responsibility and robs them of the motivation to learn. The hierarchical nature of schools fosters "shame, hubris, cynicism, and cheating," as well as bullying. Gray's observation that mixing age groups can foster the educational process is intriguing, but his advocacy of radically transforming the role of teacher to that of a consultant is more controversial. The author's suggestion of the $600 billion savings to be had by eliminating public education suggests a libertarian political agenda, but it should make his proposals attractive, if not entirely convincing.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465037919
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 3/5/2013
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 138,284
  • File size: 641 KB

Meet the Author

Peter Gray is a research professor in the Department of Psychology at Boston College. The author of Psychology, a highly regarded college textbook, he writes a popular blog called Freedom to Learn for Psychology Today. He lives in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts.
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Table of Contents


Chapter 1. What Have We Done to Childhood?

Chapter 2. The Play-Filled Lives of Hunter-Gatherer Children

Chapter 3. Why Schools Are What They Are: A Brief History of Education

Chapter 4 .Seven Sins of Our System of Forced Education

Chapter 5. Lessons from Sudbury Valley: Mother Nature Can Prevail in Modern Times

Chapter 6. The Human Education Instincts

Chapter 7. The Playful State of Mind

Chapter 8. The Role of Play in Social and Emotional Development

Chapter 9. Free Age Mixing: A Key Ingredient for Children’s Capacity for Self-Education

Chapter 10. Trusting Parenting in Our Modern World

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Customer Reviews

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    Posted May 28, 2013

    Battle Room

    You can battle other trainers here.

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