Friday, March 09, 2007

Restrictions On Childhood Imagination

Via Scott McLeod.

The Onion weighs in on creativity.
The Department of Health and Human Services issued a series of guidelines Monday designed to help parents curtail their children's boundless imaginations, which child-safety advocates say have the potential to rival motor vehicle accidents and congenital diseases as a leading cause of disability and death among youths ages 3 to 14.
Sorry AHS staff and students, you'll have to access this at home - The Onion is blocked by our Internet filter. Hmm, what can we infer from that . . .


  1. My daughter enjoyed an internship at The Onion Headquarters in Chicago two years ago, and she regularly shared with us hilarious articles, which were typically blocked by our school computers. Thanks for sharing yet another satirical piece that gave me a reason to smile on a Sunday evening.

    But do you know what author Agatha Christie said about boredom? When asked what sparked her imaginative powers in constructing her wonderful collection of mysteries, she replied, "Boredom." She spent most of her childhood on a huge estate in rural England, and her only playmate was her imagination. When my children were small and would complain about being "bored," I used to tell them, "Good. Perhaps you'll create something magnificent."

    And remember how much mileage children get from a simple, cardboard box? How many Christmases did my husband and I fret over purchasing the exact gifts our children would enjoy only to watch them spend hours playing with a huge box that housed one of those "exciting" gifts.

    I am all in favor of stimulating imagination, but I am beginning to wonder if today's youth have too many "toys" that are distracting them from their innate, creative powers.

  2. I loved Agatha Christie as a kid. (Yes, I was a strange child - haven't changed much, have I?). Thanks for reminding me (about Agatha Christie, not about being strange).

    I, too, have concerns about that. Unlike most folks we know, we limit Abby's TV watching, and even everything she does watch is taped off of PBS. But, on the other hand (and doesn't it seem like I always have another hand?), I think we need to be careful to not "blame" the toys. I think many toys - even ones that we might think are too "flashy" or "glitzy" (or just plain loud) - can still help their imaginations grow. I just want to make sure that as a parent I don't "force" boredom on my child because I think she needs time to reflect and create. I need to keep in mind that it's not the boredom that I want, but the reflecting and creating.

    Thanks, as always, for helping me think this through.

  3. And isn't the key to imagination having the time to find it? Are our kids so overinvolved with activities and practices planned by others that they don't have time to be bored (a word banned in my household at the same level of the f-bomb!). Breaking my arm has helped me to understand this for myself, not just my kids. I haven't had this much time, boredom, or imagination in years!

  4. I assume we agree that boredom is not an effective technique to bring into the classroom. At Arapahoe, teachers spend much effort designing lessons that engage the kids, that help them relate their learning to their personal lives, that unlock their multiple intelligences, and that fire their creativity. The heroic efforts of my colleagues impress and inspire me.

    Yet, the cantankerous old lady who lives in my brain keeps tossing me a memory....

    I once worked with a teacher who believed the best gift she could give her students was time to read. Frustrated and exasperated by her students' refusal to complete their reading assignments, she adopted a new technique. Day after day, she would greet her students with, "Take out your books and read."

    This "technique" got her into trouble, as you can imagine. Administrators and parents harassed her because she wasn't "teaching" her kids anything.

    From what I've learned about constructivism, however, I wonder if this teacher wasn't a bit ahead of her time. Perhaps--with the incredible pace and complexity of our world--time to read is a valuable commodity, and the perfect way to spend class time.

    I must admit I've been thinking about this teacher quite a bit lately. The quiet time she gave her students might have been the only hour of the day where they could feed themselves great words and ideas. I wonder if her "boring," low tech classroom enriched her students' imaginations...

  5. I think providing students time to read in class is an excellent idea - and I would not equate "reading" with "boring." In fact, one of the few things I like about the CSAP is that it allows me to read at school - albeit interrupted every 5 or so minutes as I wander around while I'm proctoring.