WHY PLAY AND SELF-DIRECTED EDUCATION ARE CRUCIAL TO PREPARE CHILDREN FOR AN EVER-CHANGING FUTURE


Peter Gray is a research professor
at Boston College. His son attended
the Sudbury Valley School. This started his research
in this type of education. He is author of the Blog “Freedom to Learn”
in Psychology Today… and he is the founder of
the Alliance for Self-Directed Education. You may know him from his book
“Free to Learn”. The subtitle of this book is:
Why unleashing the Instinct to play… will make our children happier,
more self-reliant… and better students for life. In english:
Why unleashing the Instinct to play… will make our children happier,
more self-reliant… and better students for life. I invite Peter Gray
to tell more about this. A warm welcome to Peter Gray I am an evolutionary psychologist. I am interested
in human nature. How our instinct originated
through natural selection… especially in that of children. Especially in those aspects that have arisen
through natural selection… which serves the function of education. We are the educable animal.
That is what defines us as a species. We are a
cultural animal. We are an animal that is dependent
from previous generations… in acquiring the knowledge,
skills and morals… of the previous generation. Long before there were schools
this already happened. In history it is always the task
of the children… to teach themselves,
not the task of adults. Adults did their own things
and children paid attention. They collected the information
they needed to know. Over the past few million years,
since we lived in cultural groups… children would not have survived,
if they didn’t develop… or have not been able to reproduce
or attract a mate. Children developed through natural selection
the instinct to teach themselves. That is what interests me. I’m going to talk about that today. What is self-directed education?
What do I mean by this? First I have to define “Education”. If you ask someone in our culture
about their education… they will tell you how much
schooling they have had. What kind of degrees they have… a high school diploma,
a college degree or higher degree. If I’m going to talk about it
self-directed education… I cannot define education
as schooling. Everyone knows people with little schooling
that are well educated. or people with lots of schooling
that are not so educated. It doesn’t make sense
to define education as schooling. I’d rather define education… as everything a person learns
that helps that person… to live a satisfactory, meaningful,
productive, moral life. Defined in this way
Education is a good thing. It is something we all want
for our children. It is not a synonym for learning. We can learn bad habits
or things that don’t help us. It mainly has to do
with the transfer of culture… when we talk about it
human evolution. There are certain things all animals
have to learn. We have to learn certain things,
no matter where we grow up. For the human species
typical behavior. We all learn to walk on two legs,
unless handicapped. We learn our native language. People everywhere learn those things. There are other things people learn
depending on culture they are growing up in. In some cultures you have to
know this or that. Within the same culture,
people also learn very own things. A meaningful and satisfying life
means something different for every person. If that is what education means,
then self-directed education is… that education that comes from
one’s own self-directed activities. For children this is
largely play. Play and exploration is
what children do. That’s how they interact
with the world. When children are free,
as in hunter-gatherer cultures… they play and explore
the whole day. In ways that they acquire
the culture around them. Self-Directed Education can include
organized classes… as long as the child wants it
and it is free to quit. If the child is forced to be there
it is no longer self-directed. Most Self-Directed Education does not involve classes … but it can involve
that children want to have classes. They can organize a class
or choose it if they are offered… but they are free not to
if they don’t want it. That is all possible
within Self-Directed Education. At the Alliance for Self-Directed Education
do we make a distinction between… self-directed education with lowercase letters
and Self-Directed Education with capital letters. So we write “Self-Directed Education” The first form refers
to our own education… regardless of the amount of schooling
we had. Most of what you know and who you are
did not come from schooling. It came from life itself,
from your own self-directed activities. Those are the things
that you remember. What you learned in school
you have largely forgotten… unless you are a very unusual person. The things that you remember
are things that are part of your life. You would have learned it anyway,
whether you went to school or not. Schooling seems important,
because society makes it important. A hoop that you have to jump through
to get a job. In who you are and what you know,
schooling has certainly contributed… everyone has learned something there… but most of what you know and who you are
comes from self-directed education. Self-directed Education with a capital letter,
counts as a brand name… for people who have chosen deliberately
for an education without coercion. Where all education is self-directed
without being coerced to take classes… or things to do
that the child does not want to do. There are two legal ways in which people
are able to do this, at least in the U.S. One is to go to a school
which is designed for Self-Directed Education. Like this school here or
the Sudbury Valley School… where my son went
and where I did part of my research. There are now many dozens of such schools
all over the world. The other way is through homeschooling
by the way called “unschooling”… whereby the child is not forced
to follow courses and… where parents support
the interests of the child. In the U.S. there are more unschoolers
then students at a Sudbury model school. The amount of unschoolers
grows very fast. Official figures speak of a doubling
of the estimated number of unschoolers… between 2012 and 2016. An estimated 1% of the population,
that is still little. Yet it involves many children,
about 400,000 at the moment in the U.S. I have done research
on graduates of the Sudbury Valley School… and on adult unschoolers
to investigate the results of such an education. We can contrast Self-Directed Education
with imposed education… That is forced upon a child. We don’t need to impose
education. There has been a time when we did
because children worked in factories. We imposed it
to get them out of the factory. There was a time when people grew up
in a culture where nobody read. Then you will not learn to read. You don’t learn to use numbers
if nobody around you does that. We are no longer
in that kind of culture. We can provide for people
a setting such as this Sudbury School… where people are who can read
and can work with numbers. Knowledge about Self-Directed Education
has taught us that… if you are surrounded by people
who can read and use numbers, everyone learns this. There are more than a thousand former students
from the Sudbury Valley School. There has never been a student
who could not read at the age of 18. Even those who had dyslexia
before they came to school. They also learn to read
in a short period of time. We don’t have to teach reading,
everyone learns it at a given moment. Not everyone at the same age. Imposed education is designed
for conformity. It wants everyone to do the same things,
at the same time, in the same way. Self-Directed Education does not work
that way… and therefore we cannot evaluate it
with tests from imposed education. Some learn to read at a young age,
others when they are older. They have no reason until they are older
and then learn to read. Some become fascinated by history,
others by something else. In Imposed education we act
as if we are all on the same track. We all have to learn the same things
in the same way. It looks like a race.
Some people are ahead and others are behind. And we have to worry
if our kids are behind in that race. Then they fail. Self-Directed Education does not work like this,
it’s like a bush… somebody takes this branch
and somebody takes that branch. You can’t compare that,
you can’t tell who is ahead. They are on different branches. One person might be ahead
in one thing… but that does not mean
that the child is ahead. This is not a judgment of the child
when we speak of Self-Directed Education. That’s about what I wanted to say
about Self-Directed Education. Children come into the world
biologically prepared to teach themselves. What do I mean by that? There is no mystery to it. What I have written here
about educative instincts. Children are born
with these characteristics. Every child without serious brain damage
has these characteristics. They are not special brilliant children,
every child has these characteristics. The first characteristic
is curiosity. There is nothing that defines a child
more than curiosity. Curiosity characterizes us all. Aristotle wrote in his book Metaphysica,
about the origin of knowledge… that people are very curious. He actually wrote that
the human being is a curious animal. We are curious from birth
until we die. People wanted to know on their deathbed
what would happen next. The worst thing we can do
is putting someone in solitary confinement… because there is nothing new
to explore. That is severe punishment. We are so driven
to learn about our world. It is a severe punishment
to deprive us. All our other needs can be met:
food, water and a comfortable temperature… Yet it would be cruel
not to have something to explore. Think about that. From babies
who are only a few hours old… research has demonstrated
that they are already more interested in new things… instead of old things. If you show them a pattern
and then another pattern… then they already look more focused
to that new pattern. They are only
a few hours old. What is this here? It seems like they think this
although they can’t say it yet. As soon as children can move,
they move to explore the world. They want to get to everywhere and
grasp everything. Because we are mammals
who examine with their mouth. So first they explore
with their mouth. We are an unique mammal
with hands and a thumb. So they use their hands. They want to know about everything they grab
what they can do with it. Nobody needs to teach them that. Nobody needs to coerce them to do this. We can’t stop them
even though we would like that… because they break things. They are so motivated
to do that. They are especially interested
in other people. They watch what other people
do or say. They constantly learn when looking around
what people do. That is curiosity. Curiosity is how
they learn about the world. Playfulness is just as important. Playfulness is the drive
that complements curiosity. Curiosity is how you
get to know the world. Playfulness is how
acquire skills. Play is doing stuff. Curiosity is looking at stuff
and explore… but playing is doing stuff
and become good at it. Think about the different ways
that children play. Anthropologists say that children everywhere
play in different ways… which I will cover here. They play with all skills
that are important to humans everywhere. From an evolutionary point of view
that is no accident. They evolved to
play in all of these ways. They play in physical ways,
as all mammals do. They chase one another
depending on the species. They climb trees,
they swing from branches, they wrestle. This is how animals get in shape
and train their bodies. Young mammals and children are not designed
for athletics, weightlifting or calisthenics. I hated doing those things
and children too. Children are designed
to chase after each other. They are designed to climb trees
and wrestle. This is how young animals
train their bodies. We have to give them all the time
to do that… and that also applies to children. They play at the same time
in risky ways. They climb higher in trees
than their mum would want them. They jump off a cliff,
they skateboard down banisters. Children always push the edge
of what they can do. How much danger
they can tolerate. Why do they play
that way? You would think natural selection
weed that out. But other animals also play
in risky ways. One has seen chimpanzees that
climbed to the top of a tree… and dropped
to catch up again. Goat kids skipping the line
at the edge of a cliff. Why there?
Why don’t they skip somewhere else? The answer animal behaviorists
come up with was… that is how animals
acquire courage. That’s how animals learn
to deal with fear. They bring themselves consciously
into fearful situations… because at some point in their life,
and in that of humans too.. we all face
fearful situations… real emergencies. If we haven’t had that experience
of exposing ourselves to it… in which we defy it
and see how much fear we can handle… how high can I go in that tree
before I feel terror… we are learning how to control
ourselves in a fearful situation. That might save our life. That might save your child later
in a real emergency. People can no longer cope with fear,
at least in the V.S… like they used to. Because we deprive them of the possibility
to play in risky ways. Children develop their mother tongue
while playing. Nobody teaches this. They must hear their native language
and interact with people about the language. But nobody teaches this. Nobody tells what a noun
or is a verb. Yet they acquire the language
and use it correctly. Learning of your native language
is play. The first cooling and babling
of your baby is playful. It always happens
in the spirit of play. Like children
use their first words… they never use those words
to ask things… they just use them playfully. They practice language
and play with it. Play is practice. That is how children
practice things. Whole dissertations have been written
about crib speech… where they used recordings of soliloquies
of babies in the crib… when they talk to themselves. Maybe you have heard your own child
do that. If you listen to it, it looks like it
teach itself to speak. It says the same things,
but a little different every time. That is exercise,
that is how children learn language. Like children together
communicate with language… then refined their language in their play
because they explain things. The language is much more complex and refined
when they interact with other children… then when they speak to teachers,
parents or other adults. Refined language is needed
to play. Children must be able
communicate about the play. So language is learned. We are intensely social beings. Like many other mammals… children like to play
with other children. What do they learn when they do that? They learn to negotiate and
dealing with others… and recognize or another child
have fun. If the other child is not having fun,
then it may quit and leave. They learn continuously
social skills. So whatever they do,
they like to play with other children. One of the most important things
is dealing with peers… what everyone should learn. They play games with rules. Rules apply to all types of play. At least implicit rules,
but sometimes they are explicit rules. They can be passed on
to children in the neighborhood. Some games
have written rules. When they play
can they change these rules… but rules remain. We are an animal
must follow those rules. We are the animal that holds
to social norms of behavior. Ways that we find accepted
versus which we find disturbing. We call a person an animal
if they cannot control themselves… if they behave according to
their whims and instincts. Children constantly practice with
restraint in play. They practice
following rules in play. If one child violates the rules,
the other will remind him. Even the wildest forms of play
have rules. Think of a few boys
chasing each other and wrestling… and swinging sticks
at one another. You can say that it
is a play fight. It’s the opposite
of a real fight… because a real fight
has no rules. In a real fight, the goal is
drive away or kill the other. In a play fight
the goal is to have fun. You must follow certain rules. The rules may not be stated,
like no scratching, no biting, no kicking… throw the other person
on something soft… if you are stronger
you must self handicap. Even in the wildest type of play
they practice restraint. in following rules of
socially agreed upon expectations… what is appropriate behavior
and what not… a very important skill
for a human to develop. They play imaginative games. All play involves imagination. When you play you step temporarily
into a hypothetical world… and what you use for that
is the highest order of human thinking. You think hypothetically. You think the way people think,
how other animal species presumably don’t think. You think about things
that are not actually present. That distinguishes the human thought,
that is why we are inventors. That’s why we
can plan for tomorrow. We can imagine things
that are not there. When young children play
that there is a troll under the bridge. What are the consequences of that
troll under the bridge? They are engaging in the highest order
of human reasoning. They practice that
in that kind of game. All types of play
involves creativity. Play by definition is
always a creative activity. As they play in imaginative ways,
they play with logic. They play with
hypothetical deductive reasoning. Piaget thought this only came around
when you were 11 or 12 years old. We now know that Piaget
was wrong. Children already think hypothetically
when they are 3 and 4 years old… in the context of play. They imagine things
that are not there. They imagine the consequences
in a logical way. This is no different from how scientists think,
when they think of hypotheses… and imagining explanations
for the observed data. Children play
wherever they are free. They play with
building things. We are the animal
with opposable thumb. We build our environment. We have through the millions of years
been building tools… shelters and
means of transport. It is no surprise
that children play with that. They practice using
their thumbs… and the brain for developing
plans for that. They play with the tools
of the culture. According to anthropologists,
children are attracted everywhere by… the most important tools
in their culture. Hunter-collector kids play with
bow and arrow, digging sticks, fire… and with canoes if they use them. They play with those things. Children in agricultural cultures
play with those tools. No surprise that children in our culture
play with computers. We can imagine that the computer is
the most important tool today. Any child that comes into the world
looks around and thinks… If there is one thing to master in this culture,
it is the computer. Then we blame them for using computers so much. this is an illustration of
the innate tendency in children… to look around, see what is important
and practice using those tools. This covers the spectrum
of what children need to learn. The third characteristic is sociability. I have stated that children
always want to play with other kids. In terms of education,
it is the strong tendency for children… to want to know
what other people know. They want to know what other kids know,
especially of those who are a bit older. If a kid sees an older kid climb trees
or know how to read… that little kid want to know
how to do it. It is not so impressive
that an adult can do those things. Adults are in a whole different world
if you are little. If you are 5 or 6 and those cool 7-year old’s
can read comic books and have fun… you want to join that club. Children learn socially. They learn by observing,
they watch, they listen. Anthropologist say that the primary way
children acquire information… is because they are specially curious
about other people. They want to know what other people
are doing… they pay attention, they overhear. Children learn more by overhearing
their parents talk… then by actual instruction
the parents give to them. Eavesdropping is how children learn. We are all interested in eavesdropping.
Children learn by doing it. The less we separate children from adults,
the more they learn. The less we separate children from other children,
especially those who are older or younger… the more they learn… because they are curious,
they are interested. Children also want to share information. They want to tell other people
what they know. They don’t want to answer your question
what they learned in school. That is a boring question. If they found something interesting,
they want to tell about it. That frog that they found out,
or this thing their dog did… or what they found on youtube… they want to share that with other people,
with their friends. The knowledge spreads when children
interact with other children. They continuously teach each other
and this is part of human nature. The fourth characteristic
is wilfulness. If you look back
in the history of schooling… the first compulsory schools were
Protestant schools. Their main function was
suppressing wilfulness. It was seen as sinful
and work of the devil. You had to beat wilfulness
out of children. These schools were designed to
teach obedience. To suppress the child desire
to do what it wanted to do. To teach the child to do
what it was told. Think about it that until today
the primary lesson in school is obedience. You only fail in a school,
if you don’t do what you are told. To be successful is
by doing what you are told. If you are stubborn, if you are the person
who will not do what you are told… you will be in continuously
trouble at school. That is not the fault
of the teachers. Teachers do not start teaching
to suppress the will of children. It is the fault of the structure
from the schools. It is impossible in the way schools are organized
not to suppress the will of children. You cannot have 30 children
in a class… and expect them to do the same
at the same moment… learn the same,
make the same keys… and that you can make them want to do it.
That is impossible. You can just do it by forcing them,
by reward and punishment. Schools are designed to
to suppress one’s own will. It no longer serves a purpose in this time,
we need wilful people. We learned our lesson
about obedience. Germany had the highest educated people
prior to the Nazi era. We need people
who can think for themselves. We need critical thinkers. People who can challenge authority. But the whole purpose of schooling was and
still is to follow the authority… to do what you are told… as opposed to learning
to think for yourself. Children are born socially. They know they are dependent
of others. They need to make connections
with other people. They are social animals. But at the same time they are born
with an innate consciousness… that they are ultimately responsible
for their own life. They must take charge
of their own life. Their life is that
of themselves. It is not the life of their parents
or that of the teacher. It is their life. Growing up means taking increasing control
of your own life. Children start doing that
early on. We are talking about the terrible two’s
with their favorite word “no”. I do not want to do that,
I want to do it myself, don’t help me. Until they are four years old
they want to be with their parents. Instinctively they know they are in danger
if they are not. Then when they have more common sense
and they can think better… they want to get away from adults. Then they want time on their own
or with other kids… where they are not told
what to do. Where they make their own decisions
about what they do. wilfulness in an intrinsic part of
the educative instincts of children. Taking control of your own life
as you grow up. They want to explore
what they want. They want to play at
what they want. They want to socialize with
who they want. This is very healthy. It may be difficult in our society
to deal with it. But we must recognize it
is a healthy drive for our children. The fifth characteristic consists of
a fairly new insight… which I think is part of
our educative instincts. Being able to make plans. This is a predisposition
that develops slowly. But as soon as children are able
to play… they also make plans. Play requires planning. When you play
make your plans. We build a sand castle and
how do carry through with the sand castle? As they grow older,
they can plan ahead. They play a game
and they have to go home… because it is getting dark and the parents are calling
and they say: “let’s continue playing tomorrow”
so they think of tomorrow. They may have forgotten tomorrow,
but they think in the future. As they grow older
they remember it tomorrow. Children that we allow to be in charge of their lives… are getting better at planning. Eventually at some point .. believe me, but don’t worry… are they going to see them
have to earn a living. How will I do that? Then they start thinking and making plans
about their life. This happens because they have
a lot of experience in planning. They have learned
to make plans. They have developed the awareness
to be in charge of their own lives. They have by experience
developed the feeling… if you want things to go well,
you have to think ahead… you have to make plans,
you have to prepare for those things. One of the cognitive tests
that is popular now… is a test to
self-directed executive functioning. It is popular because it is
an important skill in our economy. We need people who are capable
of thinking… about solutions to new problems,
how to invent things… new ways of doing things
and to accomplish it. This is a test in psychology
that is valid. People who do well on the test
do well in the world… where to take the lead
in thinking things through. In a study
the University of Boulder in Colorado… they took a group of 6 year olds… and they tested them
on these executive skills. A test especially for young children. And they also assessed the degree
of free time that every child had… to play and explore on their own
or with other kids… without adult direction… versus the time they
were under adult direction. It didn’t surprise me that kids
who received the least adult guidance… who had more control over their own activities… scored highest on the test. It fits with
what I am claiming here. Children who have lots of time
to plan their own activities… because nobody does that for them… develop a better ability
to do that. This test examines the plan
for solving a certain class of problem… and pursuing with that plan
to solve the problem. Now about the crucial role
of play. I have already said something about that. What is play? Play is an activity
with 4 characteristics. It is self-chosen and self-directed. If someone tells you what to do,
it is not play. If an adult is directing it and does not play along,
it is not play. Play is how children learn
to direct their activities. How they learn
to choose their activities. How they learn to take charge
of their own life… instead of doing
what others tell them to do. It’s how she
solve their own problems. Because the game is self-chosen,
self-directed and social is… it teaches them to negotiate. Because if you want to play together
you have to figure out what you are going to play. One wants this and the other that. I don’t want to play what you want,
so we have to talk about it… until we know what and how
we are going to play. They learn to negotiate. They learn to work together
with others. They learn that if you force the other player,
they will stop and leave. An important freedom in play
is the freedom to quit. A natural consequence of the fact
that you do not listen to the other person. You acquire these incredibly important
social skills in play. A second characteristic is
that it is intrinsically motivated. You do it for its own sake
rather than for a reward. If you do something to get a trophy or a gold star
or to improve your resume… or to get praise from your parents,
it is not play. Play is something you do
because you want to do it. Play is how you discover
your passions. How you discover
what you like to do. With a bit of luck, people discover
in play what they like to do… and think of a way
to make a living in it. in that sense they
play all their life. My research into adult unschoolers
and of graduates of Sudbury Valley… shows that a high percentage
of them follow careers… that are extensions of what they liked
when they were children. Play is structured. There is no unstructured play. Play is always structured. It is structured
by the children themselves. And it’s how kids
learn to structure. They learn to create rules
and to follow these. It’s an exercise
in constraint. And play is imaginative and creative,
I’ve already talked about that. Children develop physically… they develop intellectually,
social and moral… and they develop emotionally
through play. All realms of human development
are supported by play. From an evolutionary perspective
is it not surprising… that children in hunter-gatherer cultures,
according to anthropologists… play from dawn to dusk,
the whole day long. They develop all skills
in this way. This is how we evolved as human beings
in a world in which children developed… physically, emotionally, intellectually,
socially and morally through play. Our children still can do that
if we give them the opportunity… and provide the right context. I will skip over the study of graduates
of the Sudbury Valley School. I have already given information. But my interest in Self-Directed Education
originated during this study… many years ago. The Sudbury Valley School is
like this school. It is a school where children
are free to play and explore… all day long. It is a large school with
between 140 and 180 students… and 7 or 8 staff members. The rules of the school are made
at school meeting. This is done according to official procedures
in which children have an equal vote. Each person has an equal vote,
staff members and children together. Where the rules are enforced
in a judicial committee… which is similar to
the jury system from our society. There are no rules
about studying or learning. There are possibilities for activities
that people want to do. But you can do anything as long as you
don’t violate the democratically made rules. That is how the school works. The school has now
in the many hundreds of graduates. My studies many years ago,
which changed my career… was about those graduates. I discovered that they ended up well. They ended up well
regardless of their personality… regardless of them
socio-economic background… regardless of whether they came because they failed
or rebelled at their previous school… regardless of whether they were too smart and
got bored there… or because they came because their parents
believed in the model from the start. It worked for all these children. I found no evidence that it was a school
for a specific type of child. It seemed to work
for every body. Maybe not for people with
a serious brain damage… who need special guidance. But the type of diagnoses children get,
at least in the U.S…. such as dyslexia or ADHD… Those kids do perfectly well. They do not have the handicaps in this environment
that we see in public schools. You can find the details of this study
in the articles I have written. I have references
on the back of this handout. I put them there so you can see
that I am a college professor. But I mainly gave them
so you can read the proof… about the things I claim here. What is the optimal context
for Self-Directed Education. What is the similar between
a hunter-gatherer band… in which 99% of our evolutionary history
children taught themselves… and a Sudbury model School. I came up with a list
of which I think… describes the ideal setting
for Self-Directed Education. First I want to emphasize that… NONE of these characteristics
can be found in standard schools. We take away everything they need
for Self-Directed Education. Then we try to teach them ineffectively,
by rewarding and punishing… instead of have them learn
in a natural way. The first is social expectation
and reality that education… is the responsibility of children. They say in public school
“it’s your responsibility”… actually they say “it’s your responsibility
to do what you are told “. And if you do what I tell you,
you will become educated. That is NOT giving children responsibility
for their own education. Giving children responsibility is… it’s up to you to find out
what you want to learn. That is not my job. My job is to provide the setting,
the context for learning. It is not my job to motivate you,
to test you… to make sure you learn. That is your job. It is not even my job to define
what learning is for you. That is your job. Children who are trusted that way,
become trustworthy. Children come into the world
brilliant to educate themselves. They will educate themselves… unless we drive these educative instincts
out of them. In our schools we tend to
drive them out. Curiosity no longer applies. Their questions are not the questions
of the curriculum. They are not the questions
of the teacher. They are just the questions
of curriculum. Curiosity gets in the way. Play, if it exists,
is recess… a break from learning,
instead of a means of learning. Sociability, helping each other,
is cheating. From this list, all drives
are suppressed in school. The social expectation that education
is the responsibility of children. That is why staff members at a Sudbury model school
don’t call themselves educator or teacher. They are the adult members
of the community. The second characteristic is unlimited time
to play, explore and follow interests. You need lots of time
for this. You need time to talk
about different things… to get bored… to discover
what you really like… to pursue your interests… without bells ringing
indicating that you must stop. Lots of time and opportunity to play,
explore and pursue interests. The opportunity to play
with the tools of culture. I told you that children are naturally
drawn to these. Play with tools of the culture means:
“Do your own thing with it and be creative”. Not by stepwise
following instructions. That is not playing
with those tools. That’s not how you learn
to become skilled. Access to a variety of caring adults,
who are helpers and not judges. It is important that there are more
than one or two adults… a number of adults. Because different adults
have different characteristics. Children are very good at recognizing
the characteristics of an adult. A child who is sad
will choose this person. A child who wants a political debate
will go to that person. Children are very good at figuring out
those characteristics… different knowledge people have
and to whom they should go to. So a variety of adults
is important. You do not need large quantities
of adults. Sudbury Valley has 8 or fewer staff
for around 160 students. That is not a high ratio of staff
to students. You don’t need a high ratio,
because kids are mostly interacting with each other. But if they need an adult,
there is one available… for whatever the purpose
the child needs. And I said helpers, not judges. That’s important because you can’t be yourself,
with someone judging you. You can’t be completely open with someone
who determines whether you pass… or who determines which grade you get. You will be on
the impression management mode. we are all that way,when assessed,
also children. If you want an honest and authentic relationship
with adults… it is important that those adults
don’t evaluate you. That they don’t judge you
whether you will succeed or not. A free age mixing
among children and adolescents. This was the focus
of my own research. This is an important aspect. Daniel Greenberg,
the founder of the Sudbury Valley School… calls it the secret weapon
of the school. I’d rather call it
the most important element of that school… that children are not separated
by age. Younger children learn
from older children. Older children learn
from younger children. That happens in ways that I can
hold a whole separate lecture. The sixth point is immersion in
a stable, caring and moral community. Children are not designed to
grow up in a small family. Children, throughout history,
grew up in groups… where the group functioned
as an extended family. With around 20 to 50 people
in a group. You can go to a Sudbury school
compare with this. In it you develop a feeling that the purpose of life
is not just about yourself… but also a responsibility
to your environment. That environment has the property
that it is caring and moral. Children grow up with this feeling
for the community. I don’t only learn for myself… but also to make a good contribution
in the Legal Committee… to make good decisions
in the school meeting… to help support this community
of which I am a part. Many of the former students in my studies
told me… that they were active
in politics and in their environment… that they were caring
for the world in which they live… as a result of growing up
At a school… in which they are on a smaller scale
were responsible for their environment. I can elaborate on all other things,
if you have any questions. I will now start with questions
from this point… and thank you for your attention
for this lecture so far.

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