Chris Mercogliano Æ In Defense of Childhood: Protecting Kids' Inner Wildness PDF

PDF ó BOOK In Defense of Childhood Ð NATURALTREATMENT Ü As codirector of the Albany Free School Chris Mercogliano has had remarkable success in helping a diverse population of youngsters find their way in the world He regrets however that most kids' lives are subject to some form of control from dawn until dusk LamentAs codirector of the Albany Free School Chris Mercogliano has had remarkable success in helping a diverse population of youngsters find their way in the world He regrets however that most kids' lives are subject to some form of control from dawn until dusk Lamenting risk averse parents overstructured school days and a lack of play In this short book Mercogliono launches an attack on the modern forces of conformity and societal control over children by labeling these threats “the systematic domestication of childhood itself” What would warrant such an accusation against the uality of our care of life’s most precious resource? Criticizing parenting and children’s education can be a slippery endeavor for what life form doesn’t want to take care of its progeny? None as it turns out but Mercogliano offers a helpful euation at the end of the book why the end?beats me that helps to account for the total misplacement of values Fear leads to control and control leads to domestication When we allow fear to consume us our reflex is to completely systematize our lives and super refine our processes We sanitize everything We pad every corner We child proof every door leading to other worlds In short even great parents and educators fall into the trap of insulating our children from dangerous magical beautiful life This over protection is cloaked domestication and we raise children like livestock growing their minds in petri dishes As a result childhood—real pure virgin childhood with all of its risks margins of free time and un manipulated play—is becoming endangered in our society Mercogliano hitherto lovingly referred to as Merc starts out with citing many of the fears that motivate parents to over protect their kids’ lives He believes it all starts at childbirth where a mother is practically hooked up to machines to birth the baby for her and parent child bonding is inhibited He speaks on this at length and frankly belabors the subject I’m not sure I buy into all the hysteria about the artificiality and depersonalization of hospitals and modern medicine but I do see the far reaching risks of indiscriminately giving our bodies over to be completely regulated by machines We also risk trusting life less risk trusting our bodily defenses and self healing less and risk losing trust in the level of our pain tolerance and in our sense of the meaning of pain But I also see that we are subtly making a sacrifice of relationship—mutual reliance between human beings—for safety We are entrusting maybe selling our souls to machinesFrom childbirth he moves to the fears we all face as we try to raise a child in a hazardous world Here we develop rules and less freedom for kids to hurt themselves or screw something up He cites the scare over Halloween candy that had cautious parents thinking that every piece of candy was laced with poison or concealed a razor blade I was surprised to learn that this scare was blown WAY out of proportion in the 70’s and two sociologists studying all reported cases of Halloween candy deaths dating back to 1958 found not a single incident of a death from trick or treating at strangers’ homes But the fear of something bad happening greatly changed the way we thought of Halloween for decadesThis paranoia over our children’s safety encroaches upon our dreams for their success Schools have become ‘factory learning’ centers that are over scheduled send home too much homework and focus on an extrinsic reward system of adult approval grades rather than intrinsic motivation that takes into account each student’s uniue interests and strengths The author cracks schools and modern academia against the skull with words that ring like an aluminum baseball bat “Classrooms are becoming places where kids spend their days like cloned sheep grazing passively in a pasture of uniform right answers” He believes our school system neither understands nor do they care for children Children are herded through curriculum and grade levels and diplomas and degrees and one find day find themselves at the end with a high approval ratings from adults but no real life experience to share in the adult world It is ‘arrested adulthood’ and people in their 30’s are finding themselves trapped in it because of the “maddening double message” that has been fed to them all their lives “grow up fast but you don’t have to grow up at all”So what are Merc’s solutions? 1 Have your baby at homeAgain I have the hardest time with the dogmatism of this one I’m just not convinced that babies and mothers are as estranged and their relationship as mechanized as the author suggests Doesn’t getting a midwife imply that one needs expert attention and assistance? Then why not a doctor with expert nurses all around? I understand the whole idea of avoiding ultra insulation in medical practices but I’m not sure I’m with him all the way here Ohand his wife is a midwife Author’s bias anyone?2 ReadNot just to your kids Read for yourself One day your kids will catch on to the areas in which their parents are unable to demonstrate a conviction despite how much they pretend to want their kids to buy into itBut yes as we all know we must also read to our kids The author suggests we read a lot of fairy talesmyths in particular Why? “Embedded in fairy talesare rich archetypal symbols and themes that enable children to integrate rather than suppress the turbulent dimensions of their personalities” In other words fairy tales and ancient myths are raw and gritty with earthy emotions and expressions of genuine desires that are often repressed by the social contract—Law It would be wise to remember that Freud warned that the ego Merc’s ‘inner wildness’ can only endure a certain amount of unsatisfied libido before it channels its energies into a neurosis Rugged myth is indeed absent from our Sesame Streets and Little Einsteins on which ‘adventures’ are tame exploits into the alphabet or subtle lessons on safety and basic math You can tell we don’t trust childrenmaybe we’re afraid they might possibly grow into US3 Work to help children develop intrinsic motivation instead of mere extrinsic motivationIntrinsic motivation goes beyond ‘the carrot and the stick’ and keeps in mind that “the archenemy of intrinsic motivation is control” To illustrate his point Merc offers the contrast of encouraging a child and positively praising them by saying “You must have worked very hard to accomplish that” versus dangling the flattery “You must be really smart” One turns the child’s focus towards their own sense of fulfillment from the task while the latter turns the focus on how they stacked up against others who compete for their place of acceptance The first is the child doing something for themselves and the second for the approval of those around them A healthy individual must at some point must steer away from dependence on the approval of others to a independent sort of fulfillment and morality if they are ever to progress towards an interdependent collective goodThis intrinsic motivation is further developed by the theory of ‘autopoiesis’ Autopoiesis is the ability of living systems to continually maintain themselves and generate their own organization theory posited by Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela Human beings are autopoietic “self making” in their learning process and depend on internal structures and organization to adjust to the outside world as a result of contact with external information being processed by internal a priori categories Thus education is about waking internal truth bringing to maturity an autonomous being and not merely the unilateral result of external programming Immanual Kant said that with ‘the uestion’ of philosophical inuiry “no object is obtained but our being is transformed” Our educational pursuits become as meaningless as their sought objects if the uest for understanding and expansion is “denatured into scientific objectivity” And yet this ‘data gorging’ is mostly what we offer our kids by way of teaching The abortive and increasingly un compelling goal is a social label a grade being on the honor roll having a high gpa or getting into a prestigious universityThe author takes one final swing at shattering our dreams of a future in which formal academics save humanity “95% of all learning occurs spontaneously through play fantasy and experimentation—what I call ‘wild learning’ Only the remaining 5 percent of our knowledge—in our lifetimes—is acuired through formal instruction and of that 5 percent we remember only 3 5 percent for any significant length of time” Psychologist Jean Piaget affirmed this loudly when he wrote “Teaching at its best reuires creating situations where structures can be discovered; it does not mean transmitting structuresChildren have real understanding only of that which they invent themselves”4 Give children margins for development This means kids need time to think “Solitude and reflection are lost in the constant shuffle from place to place and from structured activity to structured activity” Kid’s also need time for unstructured unrestricted creative play They need to feel free to be themselves Don’t smother them and that also applies to not seeking their approval for everything you do as a parent Dependency is parasitism and that also applies to the co dependency of needy parents Too many parents are reining their children as alter egos turning them into their ‘status symbols’ The author borrows from Paul MacLean’s model of the ‘triune brain’ to demonstrate how aggressively pushing kids to succeed can be every bit as harmful as over protection Our brains have evolved and have become sophisticated over time and their current structure reflects the order of that growth The oldest and most fundamental of our brain structure is called the reptilian brain “R complex” and is responsible for basic sensory information and the central nervous system Next is the mammalian brain “limbic system” which surrounds the reptilian brain and is responsible for emotions and intuition The final layer is the newest brain “neo cortex” and it is the center of logic memory cognition and self awareness When a person feels insecure a ‘downshifting’ occurs which defaults brain functioning to the primal R complex and abstract and nuanced intellection is sacrificed in a regress to basic survival instincts “The learning kids are now expected to accomplish occurs mainly in the neocortex and yet the neocortex is the first part of the brain to shut down when a child feels threatened by lack of approval if they fail”5 Get out in nature This involves getting kids away from the passive experience of the television away from the sugary comforts of couch potato ism and remembering that learning is not simply about ‘going to school’ Kids nowadays suffer from what Richard Louv called “Nature Deficit Disorder” Playing beneath the unbounded ceiling of the sunny sky alone can teach us than can be gleaned in the dark low ceilinged classrooms The poet Walt Whitment stated it well when he swore “I will never again mention love or death inside a house And I swear I will never translate myself at all only to him or her who privately stays with me in the open airNo shutter’d room or school can commune with me but roughs and little children better than they” Nature has a way of steeping us in truth and waking the truth inside us; because nature is life and life is eternal It would behoove us to remember that a live tree gave its dead leaves for us to write our dead logic uponThe conclusion we have to trust our children’s inner wildness to some extent Now I would never believe that we can trust raw earthy nature as much as the author says we can To be sure the author is clearly biased in favor of the basic goodness of people and declares that “children are inherently civil” and “at their core are loving responsible and sociable beings” He even claims that the kids in the Lord Of the Flies scenario would not be acting that way if they were from HIS school What?? He can’t be serious Anyone need only sit in the play area of Chic fil a for two minutes their kids out of sight in the play tunnels before some rougher kid charges rough shod over the others while hitting and yelling epithets In my experience whenever kids are in control all hell breaks loose and someone gets hurt Each wild bi ped even but a few years out of the womb feverishly yearns to wreak havoc on the world Let’s remember that ‘wild’ is not always a cute connotation and Nature iswellwild For God’s sake there’s a species of shark that eats their siblings in the womb Inthefriggin’womb To Merc’s credit he does acknowledge that a parent must be ‘in control’ but not ‘controlling’ and that is some consolation I suppose but in my opinion he trusts to the goodness of inner wildness far too idealistically However—here’s another whiplash reversal—I love him for his idealism and I think he demonstrates well the benefit of trusting a bit to this inner wildness than we often do especially in our regimented society and academics I believe humanity’s most salutary position is somewhere in the middle on the gamut between beast and machine instinct and intellect wildness and culture So yes I think it’s high time someone sounds the alarm that our children are being systematically programmed and manufactured for intelligence and behavior that devalue their individuality and spiritual freedom Merc is doing the right thing in asserting that kids are much capable than we give them credit for It’s time for us to stop raising them like livestock to to feed our egos and fend off our fear of being forgotton

BOOK ô Protecting Kids' Inner Wildness Æ Chris Mercogliano

Time and solitude Mercogliano argues that we are robbing our young people of that precious irreplaceable period in their lives that nature has set aside for exploration and innocent discovery leaving them ill euipped to face adulthood The domestication of childhood sueezes the adventure out of kids' lives and threatens to smother It's not that this is a bad book it's just not gripping me like the last child development books I read I've read all of this stuff before so I found myself skimming a lot The gist of it it's important for children's development that they get time to play Real play Not structured adult versions of play but running around the backyard playing imaginative silly kids games He calls it inner wildness It's a fairly anti school book because kids mostly sit at desks all day and he attacks that a bit but again no new material for me at least But it was a good reminder to let go a little and remember my son learns best when it's during play

EBOOK In Defense of Childhood

In Defense of Childhood Protecting Kids' Inner WildnessThe spark that animates each child with talents dreams and inclinationsThere is plenty that those involved with children can do to protect their spontaneity and exuberance We can address their desperate thirst for knowledge give them space to learn from their mistakes and let them explore what their place in the adult world might This is an excellent book I don't agree with everything stated but I love that he understands what the problem is and has great ideas on how to fix it I appreciate the numerous studies used for the facts and his honesty about his opinions and concerns Reading to children removing the overwhelming technological influences and allowing them to spend time outside and take reasonable risks is the key to a good childhood and a solid foundation for adulthood It is well worth the read