Jay Greene, a fan of macaroni art, wonders why school can’t be more like summer camp, which his kids find enjoyable and often educational.
Forget it, responds Rory, a parent of five, at Parentalcation.
Is he crazy… my kids waste enough time at school on silly projects with no educational value.
My son’s gifted class last year was a lot like camp. The teachers idea of math enrichment was having them do some crazy number wheel..
I think camp is fun because it’s designed to be fun. If kids don’t learn Hebrew (two of Greene’s kids go to Jewish camp) or tennis or how to sprinkle the glitter on the glue, that’s OK. If they go to school and don’t learn reading, writing and ‘rithmetic, that’s not OK, no matter how much fun they had doing arts and crafts.
First, fun activities lead to a lot of wasted instructional time. Second, activity-based instruction can make it difficult for learners to focus on what it is they are supposed to learn. Knowing what to pay attention to is called selective attention in the psychological literature and it is often a problem for young or naive learners or those with learning disabilities. Third, rather than increase motivation to learn, activities with a high entertainment value but a low content value may actually decrease the probability that a child will become a lifelong learner. Fourth, without effort and practice, individuals cannot master any intellectual or creative endeavor.
Snider also thinks that learning the basics to fluency makes further learning a lot less arduous and potentially more fun.
Many of the allegedly fun activities my daughter did in school didn’t strike me as fun at all, probably because I have no ability or interest in arts and crafts. I’m still suffering post-traumatic stress from trying to make her a George Washington wig in third grade. Cotton balls, Elmer’s Glue, no, no, no . . .
Update: Catching Sparrows defends age and experience in teaching.