Groucho Marx

Blog Archive – July 2007

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“ We are faced with the paradoxical fact that education has become one of the chief obstacles to intelligence and freedom of thought. ”
Bertrand Russell

Age of Mythology

“ Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught. ”
Oscar Wilde

“ What a distressing contrast there is between the radiant intelligence of the child and the feeble mentality of the average adult. ”
Sigmund Freud

July 05 2007

Games people play

An interesting piece of research is published in the New Scientist this week suggesting that video games may interfere with children's homework, but not their family and social life. At last it seems that some balance and common sense is being applied to the subject instead of all the negative fear-mongering hype.

The findings of researchers Hope Cummings of the University of Michigan and Elizabeth Vandewater at the University of Texas at Austin "do not support the notion that adolescents who play video games are socially isolated." They add that the findings indicate that video game play can be a distraction from school-related activities, but it may not hurt grades.

Distraction from a lot of school-based activity may be no bad thing either. The emphasis on cramming kids with information like so many hard discs for the sole purpose of having them spit it out again on an exam paper to somehow 'prove' they've received an 'education' is not education at all. Boredom and frustration are behind a lot of the discipline problems in our schools. Some studies have estimated that 83% of what is learned in school is forgotten within a year of leaving, and a further 83% of the remainder by the end of the second year. Much of the information retained becomes redundant within a short space of time after that. No wonder so many children are rebelling against an entire childhood spent in the enforced pursuit of irrelevance.

Teachers complain that children have short attention spans and no perseverence, yet to watch a child enthralled with a video game, getting so far, failing, starting over, progressing, failing again, starting over again, there is no lack of concentration and determination evident. It's interest that's key. Why should a child be expected to have the motivation and perseverence to concentrate on something which he or she finds deadly dull, pointless and uninspiring? As W B Yeats said, "Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire."

World of Warcraft

And there's another fascinating aspect to computer video games which only became apparent to me when my son started getting into World of Warcraft and the like. This is the role that myth plays in our education. So many of these games are based on the mythical 'hero's journey', the fundamental teaching story perpetuated through every culture and throughout time as the foundation and framework of psychological maturation and individuation. With the demise of classical language teaching in schools and the sidelining of mythical input in education as an archaic irrelevance, myth has rebirthed itself through these games. Since it's central to our existence, it's no wonder that it's done so, and no wonder either that it holds greater fascination for our children than their homework.

Personally, I think these games are fabulous educational tools. As with any myth, the key is in understanding their symbolic, rather than literal meaning. Left to their own devices, most kids seem well capable of sorting this out for themselves. It's the adult world in its dogged conceptual adherence to literal materialism that frequently confuses the issue.

July 05 2007 | | | Permalink

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