Freedom to Learn

The roles of play and curiosity as foundations for learning.

Doing More Time in School: An Unimaginative, Mean Proposal

When will educators realize that people learn best when they are happy? Schools fail because they make children unhappy. More time in school won’t fix that. Read More

The U.S.A has a long standing history of knowing exactly what not to do, then doing it.

More time in the classroom is detromental to children who just find it boring and dry. Forced learning is not the way to fix things (as a matter of fact, forced anything will not work). This messed up proposal stems from a mixture of the government not wanting to spend money and resources to research a better way for children to learn, and frusterated parents who do not want to take initiative in their childrens' educations; rather just have the government try to solve their problems. Two appathetic parties blaming the other will not solve the problem. Giving MORE school is the psychiatric way of doing things ("medication not working? okay increase the intake!").

For me, I love school and I love learning. This is because my parents at a young age instilled the importance of education and took an interest and rewarded my efforts. Children love attention and praise, they can't get enough. If the parent took time in their life to take interest in the child's learning and reinforced the essentials in a possitive, non-militaristic, entertaining way that the children could relate to; then there would be A LOT higher test scores and school interest.

Secondly, my parents' spoken initiatives were also reinforced by the fact that I was lucky enough not to have dry and mundane teachers. In the event that a teacher was mundane and boring I would do horrible in that class - EVEN if it was a subject I thoroughly enjoyed. At the same time I would do extremely well in subjects I found no interest in if the teachers added some colour and energy in the subject; such as relating courses to popular videogames or sports.

In a few basic steps that costs the government no extra money (an accomplishment they all itch their asses for) we can raise the infamous "test score" and average. First, parents need to get off their asses and start taking an interest in their child's life. Something very rarely seen done. Secondly, create lessons that spark interest by relating to popular forms of children/teenage culture. Teachers and parents that take personal interest in the child's growth and development will see the child thrive.

Every peer I grew up with throughout my educational career who had both in their lives I saw thrive and love school. Any peer who was missing one I saw plumet.

I love school, I can't wait to go back to university September, thanks to all my teachers and parents who cared!

Survival Mode vs Thrive Mode

A school environment should be a relaxed and welcoming place where all children feel accepted for who they are, not just for how they perform on a test. They spend more waking time at school than any other place. Their greatest needs in elementary school are social emotional development, but they are getting the exact opposite. The focus is exclusively on intellectual development. Like lab rats, school is a place where they are "conditioned". Think of a child being in a cage and being told what to do and what to think all day long. The lack of basic social emotional needs and the rigid demanding kill and drill curriculum has caused school to become torture for young children. That oppressive environment without freedom of holistic learning will cause young children to develop chronic anxiety and depression. We are already observing that in younger school children in the form of increased stress related psychiatric disorders, behavioral disorders, and learning disorders.

The schools and classrooms have become too large, too impersonal, too rigid, and too boring;
The teachers and administrators are under chronic stress for test performance, and therefore so are the children. The children learn to value their worth in terms of a test score. They will become perfectionists and fear making mistakes, creative ideas and inspiration will be shut down, and with perfectionism they will be and unable to set realistic goals. They will function in a "survival" mode rather than a "thrive" mode, which will cause them to become self absorbed and narcissistic, a trend already observable in our society.

These large "industrial" elementary schools are to education what industrial chicken and pig farms are to food. They will produce intellectual robots who can score well on test, but without adequate social emotional learning, they will not be able to develop the skills needed to function well
socially or emotionally in their personal and work relationships. They will be callus, and lack empathy. They will lose their humanity. They will not be able to think for themselves because they have lost spontaneity and imagination. They have been "conditioned" NOT to think for themselves, never to question authority, and to be good workers, but not good thinkers. 50% of them as college students will drop out and never finish a degree. They obviously passed the admissions test for college entrance, but they did not have the social and emotional development necessary for college or work. Our current schools are producing intellectual robots who are emotionally immature and socially disconnected. This method of conditioning young children with fear, humiliation, and shame was used by schools and parents in Germany for a century leading up to the Third Reich.

We can't learn, if we can't Do

Scholastic, classroom education has failed our best and brightest. Throughout history the finest minds in any age not only performed poorly in scholastic environments - they outright failed there. Edison, Einstein...the list is lengthy indeed of those who excelled in life and in intellectual capability whilst failing in the world of the classroom. The classroom isn't life and it does nothing to prepare children for life outside of the closed environment.

School does not prepare children for life beyond school. Like all other prisons, school institutionalizes. Rather than teaching children to thrive outside of school - as it is supposed to do - classroom education prepares children only for more classroom education. This is counter to both the purpose of school and the best interest of children.

Furthermore, school robs children of self esteem and stunts their growth toward independence. School forces children to ask permission for such basic things as using the restroom, or even more absurdly, to only go at certain times, which is patently ridiculous. School forces children to cease exploring and understanding their world and instead sit and listen to boring lectures about which they care not at all. This invalidates the interests of children and teaches them that their concerns do not matter and are unimportant to "mature adults" thus harming their self esteem, whether they realize it or not. By lowering self esteem and confidence and hampering the ability of children to explore and build relationships with their world schools impede the progress of children toward thinking, independent adults.

All of which is, of course, in the best interest of the liberal organizations who "own" your children's education. Here we have a group of people far more interested in permanent pay for little to no contribution than in education. This latest proposal proves as much. Here we have a group of people who are more interested in allowing 26 year old "children" to remain on their parent's insurance program than they are in fostering independence in young people, thus making sure they can carry their own weight by age 26. Here we see the legacy of groups who have for the last century educated our children into last place when compared to much of the developed world.

And what do they want? Why, more time to wreak the same havoc and sow the same destruction of our children's minds that they have so far proven is their interest. More time for their brain washing and dehumanizing; more time in their scholastic prisons, listening to lectures and studying for irrelevant tests.

Sending a child to public schools is already borderline negligent. Allowing those same schools to ask for more time from your children, is downright criminal.

Bathroom rights for children in U.S. schools.

Love this! My 5yo was not allowed to use the bathroom in Kindergarten which resulted in emotional and physical trauma. We now home school. My children test 2 to 3 yrs above grade level. Becoming a one income family has been challenging, but ultimately much more rewarding. So, I have no sympathy for teachers who complain about their income, but deny basic human rights to children. I agree that this treatment lowers self-esteem, is dehumanizing and does not allow for higher thinking to occur. I said at a town meeting that this treatment was at the least physical neglect and at most torture. Prison inmates have access to toilets.

After speaking at that meeting the superintendent said he would, "Put me in jail" in the presence of my 5yo and my preschool student if I didn't stop talking about the subject. This threat further traumatized my child. This is absurd, if I indeed still have the right to free speech.

Thank you for putting these ideas together so eloquently.

The Toxic Elementary School Environment

The elementary school environment can now be considered toxic and psychologically abusive to young children. And who will advocate for the children?

The politicians are all too Narcissistic and self absorbed with budgets and lobbyists to notice the children's distress.

The school administrators are all too Narcissistic and self absorbed with worry about their
school's "performance" to notice the children's distress.

The teachers are all too Narcissistic and self absorbed with worry about their own "performance" to notice the children's distress.

The parents are all too Narcissistic and self absorbed with worry about their jobs and economic survival and "keeping up appearances" to notice their children's distress.

The one mental health person in the school, the counselor, does notice and does speak out....but
all those who could help, the politicians, the school administrators, the teachers, and the parents are too Narcissistic and self absorbed to hear, so the children's distress goes unnoticed. This story is not a Fairy Tale, and it does not have a happy ending.

Bathroom Rights In 8th Grade

As a rising high schooler, I completely agree with the "permission to use the bathroom" absurdity! In middle school, students have only 3 1/2 to 4 minutes tops to change classes, go to our locker, and/or use the bathroom. One time last year, in my science class, here's the scenario--I leave my previous class, go to my locker, and head to my science class. Next, I put my books down on my desk, collect my supplies (my teacher uses authoritarian method of making sure we MUST grab a warm-up sheet 2 minutes before class begins), and I go to use the restroom--keep in mind this is ALL before the bell rings. I then proceed to come back to class maybe ONE minute after the bell rings (I am not tardy, because I already had my books and warm up on the desk). Of course, I am then given the death stare by my teacher followed by the question, "Where have you been?!" in a tone as if I decided to arrive to class after playing hooky. From then on, I always had to ask my teacher, EVEN BEFORE class started, to use the restroom. Unfortunately, that was middle school, or the broader definition- an institution where young adults are given the work and responsibility of high school or college student, yet given the same respect as the students in the neighboring school (elementary school). But of course, I have absolutely no say in my restroom rights because I'm ONLY 15 years old.

Everyday degradation of school

Thank you for this comment. I think you nicely highlight the everyday, commonly accepted ways by which young people are continuously degraded and disrespected in school. It is so common that people aren't shocked by it. I'm hoping that you and other students will find some way to start or take part in a movement to make people aware of how demeaning such treatment is. No adult would stand for it, and students should not either. Take a look at my Tipping Point post-- -My best wishes to you. Peter

What boggles my mind is that

What boggles my mind is that parents are told to get their kids involved in physical activities; to eat dinner together every night; to have a real family life and be involved with their kids and so on and so on -- yet at the same time we're supposed to turn them over to the school system for most of their waking hours (if you include homework, it's already more than half now)? I can't even imagine how you would have any sort of family life whatever if they expanded the amount of time kids spent in school (and do you think it would end homework? because I don't).

Homework is okay, but not in

Homework is okay, but not in excess. Right now it is in excess. Some homework that relates to the child's interest is good (rather than monotonously saying do question 1-25 on pg 200....)

Homework allows the child to develop time-management skills and implore their own indipendance. However assigning up to 2-3 hours of homework a night is not good, as most adults working their 9-to-5 job don't even spend that much time pouring over their work at home. And since kids spend 3/4 as much time in school as adults do at work, they should only do 3/4 the workload at home. Give a kid half-hour to an hour of self-motivated homework and it will be healthier and more interesting to them.

But no way in hell is adding extra time at school going to benifit.

Homework - the evidence.

Actually the research on on the value of homework suggests that homework has almost no beneficial effect on increasing either children's learning or their time management skills. It is, however, strongly correlated with negative attitudes to schooling - the more homework a child receives the less they enjoy school.

To quote Alfie Kohn: "decades of investigation have failed to turn up any evidence that homework is beneficial for students in elementary school. Even if you regard standardized test results as a useful measure, homework (some versus none, or more versus less) isn’t even correlated with higher scores at these ages. The only effect that does show up is more negative attitudes on the part of students who get more assignments.

In high school, some studies do find a correlation between homework and test scores (or grades), but it’s usually fairly small and it has a tendency to disappear when more sophisticated statistical controls are applied.

The results of national and international exams raise further doubts. One of many examples is an analysis of 1994 and 1999 Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) data from 50 countries. Researchers David Baker and Gerald Letendre were scarcely able to conceal their surprise when they published their results last year: “Not only did we fail to find any positive relationships,” but “the overall correlations between national average student achievement and national averages in [amount of homework assigned] are all negative.”

Finally, there isn’t a shred of evidence to support the widely accepted assumption that homework yields nonacademic benefits for students of any age. The idea that homework teaches good work habits or develops positive character traits (such as self-discipline and independence) could be described as an urban myth except for the fact that it’s taken seriously in suburban and rural areas, too.

In short, regardless of one’s criteria, there is no reason to think that most students would be at any sort of disadvantage if homework were sharply reduced or even eliminated"

Homework is a waste of time that would be better spent in other activities like playing, socialising and outdoor activities.

I agree Marco, I think it

I agree Marco, I think it isn't fair to load children with so much homework, what happened to play time and family time? In reality it was my experience that many of the parents ended up doing their kids homework anyway.. Thirty minutes is more than enough time for homework with elementary school children - if at all? I also think the schools should adjust the school start times for teenagers who need more sleep according to research done at Stanford.

So true!

And I'm suppose to sit down with them and do ridiculous homework worksheets instead of what I'd like to do which is read to them the wonderful books that I loved to read? It's so intrusive and pointless.

Longer School Days

What boggles my mind is how are the schools going to fit in their beloved after-school athletic programs that bring in much needed money and easily get as much (if not more) attention as the scholastic programs? Their athletes will be sitting in classrooms rather than running on the fields... or will *these students get *special privileges?

School administrators (and the Teacher's Union, etc.) must realize that this will have a major backlash if it becomes widespread. Homeschooling will take off like there's no tomorrow, and I can't wait to see it happen. The school system is failing - for many reasons. More and more homeschooling programs are incorporating on-line learning into their programs. The Internet can be a wonderful learning tool. It's full of vast amounts of information - at least as much as students get in a classroom. The movement is afoot. Just check out the TED talks. A big upheaval of the educations system in this country is coming. And it isn't forcing our kids to stay in school (or on buses) form 7:00am - 6:00pm. There is no way I will let that happen to MY kids.


I agree most schools will never let their beloved athletic programs go under...and in most schools the children in the programs already have special privileges. So I guess only some would have the longer hours.

What about "well-rounded individuals", especially friendships?

I agree with Sarah's comment about what time is left for family.

Also, what time is left for one-on-one play--which is so crucial for developing friendships?

I've been reading about how important it is for children to have close friends (a no-brainer, but studies also support it). In fact children without close friends are much more likely to drop out of school and get involved with drugs. Children without a good friend outside the family are also more likely to grow up to be lonely young adults (see "Friends Forever" (p.xii) by Fred Frankel for references).

Children need at least 4 hours per week for one-on-one time with potential friends--that means outside of school, and with no siblings around--to practice being a friend and to develop friendships.

I feel very sad for you folks in the US and especially for your children. For a million reasons, I hope this doesn't come to pass.

The sad thing is that society/the "system" is likely to favour it, since it supports the two income family by providing longer hours of (what is effectively) child care.

Rise students of today for the students of tomorrow!

I am currently a studet I agree with this so much!!!

I am very unhappy with the enviorment in my school, with the choices available at my school, and being forced to learn certain subjects I have no joy or passion for.

My teachers are horrible as well, like really, you are the one in charge of your classroom you are the authority. CONTROL YOUR CLASSROOM!!!

My unhappines really reflects on my grades, I am not a perfect person but I try my hardest. No one really encourages me in my education, I do not really have and motivation. All I hear is Critisism and discoragment. I though am a wise person, some even say I am wise beyond my years. I believe it is just the way I present myself.

School should be a lace for students to enjoy and be willing to go to every day. I am glad to know that I am not the only one suffering through stress and anxiety in school. Adults so not understand that there is stress and anxiety in school.

Do not mind my poor grammar

Do not mind my poor grammar and spelling.
I never gotten sleep because I was studying for my exams.

Same Here said everything I was going to say.

"My unhappines really reflects on my grades, I am not a perfect person but I try my hardest. No one really encourages me in my education, I do not really have and motivation. All I hear is Critisism and discoragment. I though am a wise person, some even say I am wise beyond my years. I believe it is just the way I present myself."

That is exactly how my school experience was; along with the article. There was really(what I felt)no reason to do well because all i would ever hear is criticism. Because even if you do every bit of homework...or the longer hours it is still not good enough. School was never enjoyable and everyone here really hit it on the head; people naturally love to learn...that is until they are taught to hate it...

We should start by repealing

We should start by repealing compulsory attendance laws. Being under the age of 18 should not be treated as a crime.

When students are free to leave, teachers and administer will rediscover the importance of providing an attractive environment where children can actually enjoy learning.

Let us take an example: is there any method less likely to inspire a love of reading than "Children, open your books; now wait for 30 minutes until your turn to read one or two lines?" Only a prison warden could devise and implement such a dreary system.

An Institution by Any Other Name

Unfortunately, human institutions all have one thing in common, they all, eventually, take as their main goal their own self preservation. Any organized "program" that we devise will eventually either; A:Become as authoritarian and coercive as the public system or worse, or B: Devolve to the point of uselessness and become a playground.
One of the main problems, as I view it, is this idea that competing with other countries to reach some unseen goal of bettering ourselves is foolish. Why not decide what we actually think is a worthwhile goal and head for it?
When we buy into the lie that the system as it stands (not just forced government schooling, but our whole "civilization" as it were) is headed down the right path and only needs minor adjustments, we continue a headlong plunge toward the abyss.
The only good government program is one that has lost its funding. Otherwise it will first subjugate, then consume the very souls it was designed to serve.

Doesn't all bureaucracy do that very thing?

Consume without giving back? Depersonalize. Stray from the mission.

Money Involved

That why when schools (at there very core) started as learning centers in a town, where all age's learned together; and best of all there was no money involved. Is the only point i can think when schools really have, and would work.

The first mistake made was; making schools government controlled (which you can see how well govt. works at running anything).

Money may not be the root of the evil in all this...but it is a good place to start looking.

Managers Versus Subordinates

I see many of the same problems in school that I see in business. That problem is one of managers existing not for the sake of an organization, but for their own sake and the sake of their position within that organization. In other words, managers more interested in office politics and saving their own skin than in helping the organization.

Public schools have, essentially, made every teacher a "classroom manager." Each teacher is "in charge" of a classroom, or several classrooms, each day. These "managers" are trapped between higher level management, and the rank and file they oversee (in this case, students.) In between these classroom managers and the school board are numerous other layers of bureaucracy and red tape. Numerous other layers of management. And each of those layers is working not for the organization, but for itself, desperately trying to justify its own existence within the organization and preserve its own well being.

This system of red tape and hierarchy has ruined education like it gradually ruins business. Teachers and lesser administrators likely set out to improve education. But somewhere in there, it became clear that, in these days of reckless government waste, they would first need to preserve their own place with the Great Machine. Now, these teachers and low-level administrators exist for their own betterment and to keep themselves employed, not to help the organization.

It is a basic failing of teams, this need for self-preservation over the welfare of the organization. Each person looks out for their own, and constantly justifies their job without actually doing it. And the larger the organization becomes, the more such individuals it acquires. Schools, and the boards which control them, have reached or border on a critical mass wherein most of the people spend most of their time not working to better the organization and those it serves, but to preserve their place within it and better themselves.

We must take the bureaucracy out of our schools. We need private schooling to outright replace public. We need to use the free market to allow schools to compete for students, not as their forced attendees, but as their customers. Perhaps some schools could focus on trades while others focus on science or medical care. Perhaps some schools could offer free-form learning while others offer more structure.

I am confident that, if schools had to compete for customers and if they profited from their attendees, the quality of education would improve.

If schools had to compete for

If schools had to compete for customers, that would be more like business, but you stated that business suffer from the same problems. If schools remain compulsory, whether or not there is a "choice" of different school options won't solve the fundamental problem, although it may be nice and more people could study what interests them. I don't see the solution you propose would turn things around, though. Interesting discussion!

Longer School Time

You'll end up with kids falling asleep during class Eaton are exhausted.


Pods will end up falling asleep in class.


We need 8 hours sleep.

Kids Need More Than 8 Hours

Young children (think elementary school) need approx 10 hours of sleep per day. Kindergarten and younger need 12 hours. With a school day of 9-10 hours, that leaves just 4-5 hours for the following:
-wake-up, breakfast, get ready for school
-travel to school
-travel from school
-decompress after school (playing outside, talking about the day, reading, coloring, etc.)
-homework (it starts in kindergarten in some places)
-bedtime routine (bath, stories, talking with parents)
-falling asleep (some people just drop off; others take 30 minutes or more)

Also needing to squeeze in: social activities (e.g. Scouts or religious groups), after-school activities (class play), other family members' activities (e.g. watching older sister's soccer game), etc.

it's the adult model

many adults have no more than 4 or so hours of personal time with work and commute commitments and they have to squeeze taking care of offspring within that time as well (for the aforementioned homework).

it's not just the kids. We are all being conditioned only to be worker drones. Now that we've got the adults all golden handcuffed to status, careers, mortgages...we need to round up the kids into the model.

The kids "new" proposed schedule is simply the current adult model. You want your kids to have your kind of life and stresses and angst? Then raise them to do as you do and accept what you accept.

See Gray's

Those in power (aka obama) want us dull and controlled and are working as hard toward that aim as they can.

Right on the Head

Dull and worker drones...and they want the children to be the same.

Though what you forgot about is that if you do not want to be a drone (like my self and you) you are looked down upon as lazy, because you don't want to work 12 hours a day and never see your family or friends.

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Peter Gray, Ph.D., research professor at Boston College, is author of the newly published book Free to Learn (Basic Books) and Psychology (a textbook now in its 6th edition).


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