Sunday, February 03, 2008
The photo at left showing Time writer and blogger Lev Grossman's daughter gaming on her laptop shows how easy it can be to come to the right conclusion while giving the wrong impression. Grossman is one of those young men who grew up on gaming and then couldn't wait to infect his own daughter with his addiction. Something made him wonder, however and he decided to consult an expert Susan Gregory Thomas whom he now calls Susie Joykiller, because she explained to him that his ideas of the wonderful advantages like hand/eye coordination he was offering his daughter were just his own destructive fantasies offered as rationalization. Then the magazine article pulls the plug on Grossman's discovery by offering websites for tiny gamers. A better thing would nave been to tell where to buy scissors.As the old saying goes, apples don't fall far from the tree. Parents, not knowing any better from their own upbringing have allowed their children to be disengaged from exploration in the real world and it shows. I got a request from a reader for an interview on how to get children involved in hands-on learning. What could be simpler than to do-it-yourself? Let's develop a remedial action plan.
What this article illustrates is that we are now entering a second generation in which children have been turned over to machines to entertain them and instruct them while the age old tools of human creativity remain untouched. As people generally read only the first few lines of articles, most readers will be influenced by the picture of Lev Grossman's daughter gaming (Oh! So cute!) and never understand the stupidity of the idea nor the complexity of the issues involved.
When I grew up, there were no video or computer games. I wandered the woods and fields with my pellet gun in search of game. My parents didn't have to make up stuff for me to do in the real world. I had my own imaginative inclinations for that. In the basement work shop, I had full access to a range of tools that allowed me to make things. Instead of sharing a love of gaming, my parents shared a love of making things and creative engagement. And so this problem of how to engage children in real things, hands-on learning is a matter we can fix.
Take your children out of doors and leave the digital devices behind. Let them feel real world wind in their hair. Play soccer and other sports. Pitch the ball with them. Spend some time with them in the hardware store shopping for nuts, bolts, screws, tools and all those things that children really need to know about if they are to become the least bit creative. Put away the iPods and play music of your own making. Plant a garden. Fix a chair. Cook and clean and make them help. Take a trip beyond the limits of your technology. Supply the tiny tools that allow your children to go where no manufacturer wants them to go. Tear down the iPod and see what's inside. Flex your own curiosity, challenge them to flex theirs and let the chips fall where they may. Gaming is addictive and we must take time away from that crap if we want our children to become engineers, scientists, artists, musicians and more.
DIY, make, fix and create...