Sometimes I come across entries related to parenting and education in the least expected places. Statistician Andrew Gelman’s blog is one of those places where I normally expect to read technical analyses related to economics, politics as well as musings about state-of-the-art in statistical research. Thanks to him I discovered Alison Gopnik‘s short article titled “Why Preschool Shouldn’t Be Like School“.
According to Gopnik:
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 Cognition—one 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.
So maybe the gist of the article is that very young children don’t need more education but just better education, and that ‘better’ means simply creating the conditions in which children try to satisfy their curiosity by themselves. This reminds me the following quote from an old issue of American Scientist:
The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not “Eureka” but “That’s funny…”
—Isaac Asimov (1920–1992)
Let’s help our children discover this world and say “That’s funny…” for a long time.