A fascinating and important piece in the Wall Street Journalthis morning makes the case that our modern habit of keeping kids out of work during years and years of academic study may actually stunt the development of important parts of their brain: the parts that have to do with practicality and making responsible decisions.
Generally speaking, neurological research still needs to be taken with a grain of salt when it comes to linking brain development and activity with behavior. The science is developing rapidly and when that happens a lot of false ideas look temporarily plausible until new research comes in — and (like the climate) the brain is a very complicated subject where it is easy to go wrong.
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Nevertheless, the piece points to something important: the modern situation in which kids reach puberty early and economic and emotional adulthood relatively late is not necessarily ideal. Ideally, kids’ lives should integrate both work and study through life — not as nine year old factory slaves, but more like the way kids on American family farms acquired more and more responsible roles as they grew up.
Apprenticeships and other forms of education could well be healthier and more effective than our present over-emphasis on the classroom.
School reform in America needs to involve much more than objective test scores. The 20th century universal school system of rigid grades and the growing separation of learning and work may have made sense 100 years ago. To sit still, follow directions, move with the herd and live by the clock were important skills in the days when repetitive jobs in factories and offices were how most adults lived. But civilization is at a higher level now, and we need to prepare kids for more fluid and dynamic lives.
You don’t need to be a neurologist to see that modern schools stunt brains.
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