Csikszentmihalyi and PlayStation 3
There are some things that can never be said or heard enough, Moses’ Ten Commandments, for example, Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, and almost everything Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has to say about how kids learn.
For example, these passages from an article of his in Daedalus, Fall, 1995:
"Whether or not children will learn does not depend primarily on what happens in school, but on the experiences, habits, values, and ideas they acquire from the environment in which they live."
"Education is the result of a continuous process of interaction between individuals and the environment. Children are formed by their experiences with parents, teachers, peers, and even strangers on the street, and by the sport teams they play for, the shopping malls they frequent, the songs they hear, and the shows they watch."
"Each of the young person’s experiences contributes to the shaping of his mind and character, sometimes vastly out of proportion to the time spent in the activity. One song heard on the radio or one conversation with a friend can have a more profound effect on a child’s future than a thousand hours spent in school."
"Most of the time adolescents are either alone or with friends and classmates. Very little time is spent in the company of adults. The typical American adolescent spends only about five minutes a day alone with his or her father–not nearly enough to transmit the wisdom and values that are necessary for the continuation of a civil society."
We know what Csikszentmihalyi says is true. We know that his words are an accurate description of kids’ lives. Yet we go on speaking and acting as if school, and not everything else, was the most important shaping influence in the adolescent’s life. And furthermore we even blame the schools for the kids not learning what the schools are teaching. What the kids are in fact learning, because they are learning all the time, by and large escapes us.
Why don’t we start with what Csikszentmihalyi tells us about the the formative experiences of the adolescent’s life and go from there? For whatever reason we don’t do this and instead always start with the schools and what they are teaching. We continue to “tinker” with the curriculum and everything else, thinking that by our changes we will improve the outcomes for the kids, higher test scores, for example. The tinkering goes on and on but the outcomes don’t seem to ever change. In our frustration we look back and talk about an imaginary “golden age” when things were better, or we look ahead to the next great hope from the political party out of power, believing that this time we will really have an education president.
If you’re not convinced by what Cskiszentmihalyi has to say about what are the formative influences in kids’ lives read the account in today’s NYTimes of the long lines of young men and women, many still in school, waiting through the night to be first for the store opening and the sale of Sony’s new PlayStation 3. The real passion that young people, not just here, but everywhere throughout the developed world where people are wealthy enough to be able to buy these games, the real passion that young people show for these games must have begun much earlier, certainly while in school. Computer games, the internet, popular music, popular culture, the culture of the mall, all that sort of thing, friends, just being with friends, hanging out, these are the things that were probably most alive for them while they were in school. School at best was someting they had to do, an obligation, a payment to be made in order to do what they wanted to do, their school experiences probably having little real meaning for them and certainly never, like PlayStation 3, arousing their passion.Explore posts in the same categories: Education