Play is a Risky Study

It doesn't matter what you study—it matters how you study it - Michael Roth, Wesleyan president and author of Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters

In that spirit, Virgin Unite asks if play is "a serious solution to economic and social challenges."

'It’s not about doing more earlier. It’s not about teaching them to read or write earlier and earlier. It’s actually about making sure they’ve got some of the underpinning skills on which so much of the rest of their life is going to be based,' said the LEGO Foundation’s global head of research and learning, Andrew Bollington, in a recent Google+ Hangout.

Those skills include creativity, teamwork, problem-solving, and leadership. Learning through play, Bollington said, is perhaps the most developmentally appropriate way for young children to develop those capacities: 'It’s the way children learn, and want to learn, and naturally learn, unless, frankly, you stop them.'

In a quote from her web site that I've never forgotten, real-world game designer and former IdeaFestival speaker Jane McGonigal said that "the opposite of play is not work, it's depression." I think that idea goes a long way toward explaining the discomfort people intuitively feel toward the the culture of test taking that now dominates the school year, an almost ritualistic doubling down on an educational process with roots in the 19th Century. The sad result is that many children are less able to take the information that they have learned in new and novel directions, to elaborate and expand, to twist and invert, to observe what they know from a slant. Rather, their work at accumulating facts produces the tortured expertise of fault finding, of one-upsmanship and unmasking error.

It doesn't matter what one knows if the known thing doesn't change what one does. That's why play and leisure, why the openness and vulnerability needed to turn mere information into knowing, is so important long after childhood. Play is a serious solution because without it, our hands and feet are never moved. Without it, we are never changed.

Stay curious.


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