By Katie Culver
And yet, many critiquing Amy Chua’s approach have themselves forgotten a key element of childhood: Play. It’s not just Tiger Mom, but parents and educators who have embraced a new trend that puts academic success over all else.
In schools, recess is cut to pack in more academics. Ambitious parents schedule activities to fill every waking minute of their child’s day. Call me crazy, but isn’t play supposed to be fun? And best when initiated/discovered by kids themselves?
Clearly, parents and schools are not making adequate time for this staple of childhood. I have seen this up close, as an elementary school teacher in urban schools, while researching how urban girls are discouraged from playing sports, and now as a parent. Yes, they’ve cut playtime at my son’s school – in kindergarten!
(Now he gets 15 minutes of outdoor play in a seven-hour school day.)
And other schools, too, are putting the brakes on recess to make more time for test prep. Poor urban schools as well as even high-performing schools obsessed with test scores are cutting playtime – and an important part of a student’s education. (Especially as research suggests that non-academic skills are critical to academic success).
Why does play matter?
It’s not just a hedge against childhood obesity or kids who can’t operate with out a clicker or a mouse in hand (or the precursor to the joy of sports participation). Play teaches things our children need to know like creativity, logical thinking, problem-solving and social skills. Sitting at a desk, drilling for tests just doesn’t cultivate this essential know-how.