Friday, January 12, 2007

George Herbert Mead (February 27, 1863 – April 26, 1931) was an American philosopher, sociologist and psychologist, at the the University of Chicago. He is regarded as one of the founders of social psychology. He lived with William James as a tutor for his children while at Harvard, and studied with G. Stanley Hall and Wilhelm Wundt in Leipzig, Germany. At the University of Chicago he was a colleague and close associate of John Dewey.

One of his important contributions was an analysis of human activities, looking at the relationship between work, the making of art and play. The link that follows will carry you to his paper, "the Relation of Play to Education," originally presented as an address on the Chicago Commons, May 1, 1896. The paper itself is too long for anyone to slog through on a blog, but an important point is that play itself, has educational function in children's lives far greater than the imposed "work" taking place within classrooms. Whether in 1890, or 2007, classroom work has been designed to push students to pass (or fail) the tests required to move on to the next levels of education and to meet expected levels of state requirements. Play, as pointed out by Mead and many others has educational value far beyond what most in education are willing to acknowledge.

While reading Mead's paper, be sure to note the comments about Mrs. Quincy Adams Shaw's School and about Sloyd. His comment about Sloyd carries particular insight. Mrs. Q. A. Shaw was the woman who brought Gustaf Larsson to Boston and founded the first Sloyd Teacher Training School in the US. You may have heard of the North Bennet Street School in Boston. It was founded by Mrs. Q.A. (Pauline Agassiz) Shaw and still serves as one of the premier woodworking schools in the US. The school to which Mead refers is one of the Frobellian Kindergartens Mrs. Shaw established in Boston. If you want to know more about Froebellian Kindergartens, please refer back to the December archive of this blog.

Much earlier in the blog, I referred to a paper on play (.pdf download) from the American Academy of Pediatrics. Another great source of information is Alliance for Childhood. At their site you will notice that they and Sarah Lawrence College are co-sponsoring a workshop on play.

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