Links to Think

Links to Think: 15.03.02

March 2, 2015

15.03.02.ltt

Why Preschool Shouldn’t Be Like School

This is a helpful article examining how our push for earlier and earlier academics may actually backfire.

“Ours is an age of pedagogy. Anxious parents instruct their children more and more, at younger and younger ages, until they’re reading books to babies in the womb. They pressure teachers to make kindergartens and nurseries more like schools. So does the law—the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act explicitly urged more direct instruction in federally funded preschools.

There are skeptics, of course, including some parents, many preschool teachers, and even a few policy-makers. Shouldn’t very young children be allowed to explore, inquire, play, and discover, they ask? Perhaps direct instruction can help children learn specific facts and skills, but what about curiosity and creativity—abilities that are even more important for learning in the long run? Two forthcoming studies in the journal Cognitionone from a lab at MIT and one from my lab at UC-Berkeley—suggest that the doubters are on to something. While learning from a teacher may help children get to a specific answer more quickly, it also makes them less likely to discover new information about a problem and to create a new and unexpected solution.”

“Why might children behave this way? Adults often assume that most learning is the result of teaching and that exploratory, spontaneous learning is unusual. But actually, spontaneous learning is more fundamental. It’s this kind of learning, in fact, that allows kids to learn from teachers in the first place. Patrick Shafto, a machine-learning specialist at the University of Louisville and a co-author of both these studies; Noah Goodman at Stanford; and their colleagues have explored how we could design computers that learn about the world as effectively as young children do. It’s this work that inspired these experiments.”

“Knowing what to expect from a teacher is a really good thing, of course: It lets you get the right answers more quickly than you would otherwise. Indeed, these studies show that 4-year-olds understand how teaching works and can learn from teachers. But there is an intrinsic trade-off between that kind of learning and the more wide-ranging learning that is so natural for young children. Knowing this, it’s more important than ever to give children’s remarkable, spontaneous learning abilities free rein. That means a rich, stable, and safe world, with affectionate and supportive grown-ups, and lots of opportunities for exploration and play. Not school for babies.”

(I’d planned to share this article a few weeks ago, but lost my bookmark; thanks to Johanna for posting on her FB page!)

10 Memorable Dr. Seuss Quotes About His Work

Since today is the birthday of Dr. Seuss, this is a fun piece!

2. On writing books kids actually want to read: “I have great pride in taking Dick and Jane out of most school libraries. That is my greatest satisfaction.”

3. On where he gets his ideas: “I get all my ideas in Switzerland near the Forka Pass. There is a little town called Gletch, and two thousand feet up above Gletch there is a smaller hamlet called Über Gletch. I go there on the fourth of August every summer to get my cuckoo clock fixed. While the cuckoo is in the hospital, I wander around and talk to the people in the streets. They are very strange people, and I get my ideas from them.” (He wasn’t a fan of this question, apparently.)

4. On what would happen if he were invited to a dinner party with his characters: “I wouldn’t show up.””

 Related: Links to Think: 15.02.23: “Long Range Writing” and “On Playing Catch Up (In Case You Missed It)”

Disclaimer: “Links to Think” is my post of curated articles and blog posts from around the Internet. I rarely post something in its entirety (click on the heading title to read the rest of the article I’m excerpting), and I have yet to find another author with whom I agree with on everything. Please note that my sharing an article from a particular author in no way signifies my endorsement or agreement with their entire work. 

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