Play based curricula versus Drill& Kill

http://edition.cnn.com/2010/OPINION/12/29/christakis.play.children.learning/index.html?iref=allsearch
I am sure that most of my early childhood education friends will enjoy this article, urging play based curricula.
The authors wonder why the nation does not more readily adopt this view. Let me tell you why, from the Sociological angle. The nation is increasingly skeptical of “soft” policies because the nation’s results, especially in education, have plummeted because of such approaches. Michael Barone’ Hard America, Soft America argues this cogently.
Mr. Barone, of course as any human, reads his predilictions into the data. Nevertheless, his analysis is instructive. Especially to ivy tower liberals like Sociology professors, I think. I do think it is correct to say that much of the nation concludes that many of the softening moves have proven disastrous. We need better results at the end of our educational pipeline.
Unfortunately, this authors are seeing bad results from hardening moves. The student they work with have facts, but not social skills. Students I teach at that same age (although lower level academically) have neither. They tell me that the hardening intent of No Child Left Behind has had unintended softening effect: teachers can’t fail students, so all students work less.
The answer is to get out of the whipsaw soft/hard, and get a better both/and for a better result. Play based curricula is a good answer and a good example.
Early childhood educators that play based curricula is not “doing nothing” but rather a better, more in-depth inquiry for the child into the issue than drill&kill or worksheets.
For instance, think about a child using the Montessori red rods. He will forever know exactly how long a meter is. Forever will she know that 5 decimeters and 5 more will make 10.
Further, this “guided play” will have developed enthusiasm and self-discipline in study that might be developed no other way.
Early Childhood Educators know this. They probably didn’t know they had a key to the overall national debate about education and the direction of this nation economically and culturally.
Keep up the good work.

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