Let Children Play!

I was a young boy living in the slums of the south Bronx during the Depression when a man showed up at our playground and said he was a ‘social worker.” We did not have the faintest idea who or what a social worker did. He informed us that he had come to teach us how to play. We walked away shaking our heads at the madness of this man. All children know how to play. Social Affairs Minister of Denmark, Benedikte Kjaer is calling for an end to free play for children because they should be spending their time learning. “Children need guidance in order to learn” is her motto. She is calling for a new professional curriculum for daycare teachers which would emphasize child development and learning. She derides “hippie influences” which allow free form play for children that encourages the child to establish boundaries, rather than adults. In fact, elementary school children in Denmark do not receive grades until the 8th grade. I have taught for fifty one years, including teaching children from K-12 grades. The last thing children today need is “guidance” from adults. They need opportunities to make mistakes, opportunities to decide what is important and an end to treating them as machines that are tested everyday in the year. Finland leads the European Union in education and its children are allowed free play and the right to spend time doing what they wish to do. America is the bastion of testing and control of children. Latest figures reveal that only 71% of American children graduate from high school. Please Denmark, do not embrace the failed American model of imposing conformity, imposing control of children. Allow them to proceed at a normal pace.