Spare the rod, spoil the child? - Open Knowledge — LiveJournal
Sep. 9th, 2001
01:54 pm - Spare the rod, spoil the child?
(Please note that I have no children yet, and have no direct experience with Sudbury. My views in what follows should be taken with a big hunk 'o salt.)
Amanda42 posted some interesting comments her mother made regarding the Sudbury Valley School. The school attempts to implement the following principles:
- All people are curious by nature.
- The most efficient, long-lasting, and profound learning takes place when started and pursued by the learner.
- All people are creative if they are allowed to develop their unique talents.
- Age-mixing among students promotes growth in all members of the group.
- Freedom is essential to the development of personal responsibility.
What does this mean in practice?
....this means that students initiate all their own activities and create their own environments. The physical plant, the staff, and the equipment are there for the students to use as the need arises.
Philosophically, the self-directed learning styles promoted by Sudbury appeals to me a great deal. Such a school seems a vast improvement on most existing schools, with their rigid conformity, dumbed down curriculum, and expectations that students learn decontextualized bits of information, with little or no thought as to why that knowledge is important.
Yet I feel ambivalent about the Sudbury system (and unschooling in general.) I believe children should be treated with respect, but I also think that their internal regulatory mechanisms are still immature. As a child, I hated to take piano lessons, and my mother eventually ceded to my wishes, and let me quit. As an adult, however, I wish that I had taken them--it's much harder to learn to play as an adult.
Morever, a disciplined, rigorous approach can produce fantastic results. For example, see the article Prodigal Daughters by Sarah Hurst that appeared in the May 15-21, 1997 edition of European Magazine. The Polgar daughters were chess prodigies. Sofia is rated 6th in the world among women and has a FIDE rating of 2505. At 21, Susan Polgar was the first woman to become a chess grandmaster. At 15, Judit Polgar broke Bobby Fischer's record and became the youngest grandmaster ever. She has a shot at become the first World Chess Champion, the first women to ever do so.
Their ability appears to be the result of an intensive training program begun by their father when they were still toddlers:
...Laszlo Polgar's ambition is for an institute to test his educational
theory, but the intensive teaching put in by Laszlo and Klara is not a
realistic option for the average family. The girls used to wake at six
each morning, play table tennis for two to three hours, then study
chess for six to eight hours And things were not always easy. As the
eldest, Zsuzsa bore the full force of her parents feud with the
Hungarian authorities. When she was five the police came to the flat
to make her go to school. The Polgars persuaded the government that
she should be allowed to stay at home, but their next opponent was the
Hungarian chess federation. It objected to Laszlo's insistence that
Zsuzsa must play only in mixed tournaments. As a punishment, the
federation banned her from going abroad for three years....
See also this excerpt from a post to Fork by Rohit Khare, which in turn is an excerpt from the article
Who wants to be a genius?
Jan 13th 2001, The Economist print edition, subtitled Psychologists are divided over whether genius is innate or acquired. Nobody has yet been smart enough to figure it out
"...Just as Dr Ericsson took people with no discernible talent and turned
them into champions, so, in a fashion, did a Hungarian, Laszlo
Polgar. When he began training his daughters, it was widely believed
that women could not play serious tournament chess. But through a
deliberate (and still continuing) psychological experiment, Dr Polgar
and his wife created a trio of world-class chess champions out of
their own daughters, overturning this prejudice.
By 1992, all three had reached the women's top ten worldwide. The
third, who presumably received the most refined training regimen,
became the youngest grandmaster in the history of the game and is
reckoned by her peers to have a good chance of becoming world
champion one day. With remarkable, if not hubristic, prescience, Dr
Polgar had written a detailed book on the subject of child rearing,
entitled "Bring Up Genius!" before beginning the coaching of his
children. But would any child reared by such a parent have become a
chess prodigy? "
What do y'all think? How much should children be allowed to learn on their own? How much should parents "make" them do things that are unpleasant in the short term, but have long term payoffs? (Such as learning to play the piano.)