Play

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Remember these?

There are special days in the year dedicated to hundreds of topics- pancakes, parents, anything you can think of. One such day that has recently passed is called Global School Play Day.

Global School Play Day goes exactly how it sounds; classes around the word, not limited to any particular age range or location, spend a day of the school year playing instead of learning. Actually, most people would think of it that way, but Dr. Peter Gray argues otherwise. In his TED Talk, he points out the social, independence, and problem-solving skills that children gain from playing. He also brings to light the unfortunate correlation between depression & anxiety in today’s youth and the growing education program that is laden with homework, expectations, and college application boosting extracurriculars. There’s a ton of factors that Gray highlights in his TED Talk, but I want to present some of my own experiences and personal views about this whole thing.

I spent one period of the day in an AP class of a core subject on Wednesday fooling around with a volleyball (and getting in a bit of trouble for it), playing cards, and relaxing outside under the shade of a tree with some friends. And it felt great.

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Another group of students with the same idea

I can’t even describe how I felt because I can’t really remember what it’s like to mindlessly pass time outside, but I’m sure it was probably similar to how I felt as a child. I do participate in organized sports and have relaxation time outside of school, but this was a completely different experience. The fact that we actually taking time out of the day felt exhilarating and even dare I say rebellious. Reading over that last sentence, I realize that I probably seem like a complete nerd. But really. What’s happened to moments like these?

Kids today have listened to their parents, teachers, or other adults reminisce about their childhoods & adolescent years “back in the day” at least once. And there’s always something similar about all of these stories- the adults never talk about their perfect school attendance records or what they learned in class. That one time they got into trouble for doing something stupid, how they used to play hooky, their favorite thing to do as a kid…these aren’t at all related to their “education”.

Or are they?

Maybe these things are a part of a different kind of education, a different way of growing up. When I hear about how my mom skipped 38/39 possible days of high school in a year, I wonder: how on earth? How on earth was this even acceptable? It’s almost like I’ve never heard of someone breaking the rules to such an extent before…

Growing up now versus growing up decades ago can be compared to living in a whole new world. The front-porch neighborhood America is long gone. It’s been replaced by a newer fast paced, “mind your own business” type of society, centered around the individual. Some people attribute this to the advent of technology & it can be a good thing or a bad thing, but that’s a discussion for another time. What I want to focus on is the collective perspectives of modern Americans on trust, crime, and the media’s effect.

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What do you see?

And yet, “Crime is down but PERCEPTION of crime is up”. Why? Perhaps it’s due to more media coverage; it’s natural for us to notice the bad things in the world more than the good things, and demand leads to supply. But who knows. The fact remains that Americans don’t trust each other anymore. The lack of social trust may be either a cause or a product of a new community dynamic. We don’t trust, and we believe that the world is more dangerous than it has ever been before (take a look at that last link for a compilation of data proving otherwise).

When you hear about education reform, it’s always about revising a set of standards or standardized testing, adding more rigorous schooling, etc. These changes never address the mental and physical well-being of the modern student, but rather how we can boost the test scores, the academic performances.

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Wait a minute…

Take a look at this bar graph- suicide is the second most common cause of death in young South Koreans. Is this “all-work, no-play culture” really what we want?

In the end, I’m just grateful that I had this hour during the school day to relax and reflect on everything. I hadn’t thought much about this issue before, but this post has really brought all of my underlying thoughts to fruition. It’s this giant messy web of connected problems, and I don’t really know how it’s gonna be fixed but maybe this will help raise awareness? I could go on and on, but that’s enough for now.

TL;DR: Good ol’ play lets kids develop a buncha skills that can’t be learned in a controlled environment like the classroom. However, the culture of modern America doesn’t promote this anymore, and that needs to change for the well-being of children.

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