Peter Gray’s Free to Learn

‘There is no need for forced lessons, ­lectures, assignments, tests, grades …’

Picture a generation of children losing their capacity to play. Picture a school system where recess and free time are disappearing. Imagine an educational mindset that tests its students with greater frequency even as students report growing anxiety and stress.
    If your imagination fails, it may be because there was no room for imagination in your school day.
    Peter Gray offers an alternative in his book Free to Learn and his speaking tour, which brings him to Chesapeake Country on October 5.
    “There is no need for forced lessons, lectures, assignments, tests, grades, segregation by age into classrooms or any of the other trappings of our standard, compulsory system of schooling,” Gray writes. “All of these, in fact, interfere with children’s natural way of learning.”
    Fewer American children are learning naturally. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports an ominous 41 percent rise in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder diagnoses in the past decade, resulting in millions of children taking daily doses of stimulants like Ritalin or Adderall.
    A Boston College researcher, Gray has spent his professional life observing children and schools.
    Framing his book is the personal experience that shaped his career choice: his son Scott’s education at the Sudbury Valley School in Framingham, Massachusetts. Since 1968, Sudbury Valley School has inspired a worldwide movement toward education based on freedom and responsibility.
    “Gradually, as I became convinced that Scott’s self-directed education was going beautifully, my interest turned to children in general and to the human biological underpinnings of education,” Scott writes.
    Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life adds a new voice to the chorus of writer-educators questioning current trends in parenting and education. You may have read Lenore Skezany’s Free Range Kids or Kim John Payne’s Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier and More Secure Kids.
    Gray writes in clear, accessible prose and includes chapters on trustful parenting, play in both hunter-gatherer societies and in human social and emotional development and the history of compulsory schooling.
    Meet Gray and hear his ideas Saturday, October 5 at 1pm at Fairhaven School in Upper Marlboro: www.fairhavenschool.com.