What follows is an introduction to “a groundbreaking work of profound importance” in the field of education. As oxymoronic as that assertion sounds, I beg the reader’s indulgence. At the very least, allow me to point beyond the current picture to a vision of education that may awaken and excite minds that have been forever deadened and disappointed by a field that seems to grow deeper and deeper into its own gray reality.
Education is the young’s first real test of world reality; indeed, it is the most crucial. Never has the need been greater for the field of education to design a pathway into learning that can capture the love and loyalty of every child. If Education is ever to evolve from its state of confusion and crisis to become the leading edge of human evolution, to become the crucible from which solutions to our big problems and the creation of a more humane and sustainable world are created—it will have to become something vastly different from our current model.
In America, the field is held hostage by its own archaic notions of teaching the young and a tragically wrongheaded law that has institutionalized testing as a best practice. After NCLB, what will Congress put on the Education table as an alternative? What idea can open our system of learning to re-invent an American Education worthy of the name?
To answer the question, we first might ask, What was Education before NCLB? For teachers, it was, at the very least, freedom. Imperfect freedom. Teachers had “Intellectual Freedom” to express their voices, to be creative, to teach outside the lines. For kids, education was an imperfect life not yet dominated by stress, testing and fear. It wasn’t excellence but it was still free.
But, frankly, when throughout the long history of schooling have children have had the freedom to enjoy a life of the mind and imagination? Enjoy a life in school that they could shape and define? A life that respected their individuality and intellect? Pie in the sky?
We can have an American Education that inspires and promotes innovation and seeks great solutions.
I believe that we can make technology serve Education instead of having Education serve the power and influence of technology.
We can untangle ourselves from the incredible mess we’ve made by letting go of old-school thinking, and find a new center of gravity in the universe of learning.
I believe that the best and most dynamic system of education the world has ever seen is within our grasp—one that not only equips children with the basic and advanced academic skills needed to succeed, but also with the social and emotional intelligence they will need build happy families and to make their place in the world.
My name is Jeffrey Peyton.
My work in the training of teachers is not well known, although you can Google me and get results. I have achieved a rare level of understanding and vision that sets my work apart from the pack; work that makes it possible for me to put an idea on the table that cannot be matched or mimicked by other educators who say they have a handle on education reform. My work comprises a universal solution for schools and educators everywhere.
There is no one like me in Education because I have assembled an invention based on a discovery that would have eluded even the most intelligent of educators. Not that I am so smart. I just happened to be paying attention to children at a key moment in time and space not unlike Michael Faraday’s glimpse into a waterfall when he discovered patterns of light in the misty spray.
My discovery has to do with the nature of learning and communication and on the needs and requirements of the brains of children. Out of this discovery has come a unified scientific theory of learning and communication (and a life work of applications) capable of transforming schools from early childhood to specific course work in higher education programs. A sustained application of this Theory can be conducted inexpensively on a broad scale with effects and benefits that would be measurable and life altering almost overnight. I was invited to present my theory to brain scientists in Copenhagen in 2004.
My theory happens to be rooted deeply in the soil of Western thought. Heraclitus recognized ‘the seriousness of a child at play’. In The Republic, Plato defines play as the true foundation of learning. In our time, brain scientists have identified play as the brain’s most important invention and the wellspring of human creativity and exploration.
I believe that play is a birthright. When our nation’s founders bundled life and liberty and the pursuit of ‘happiness’ into the Constitution, perhaps they knew that play, as childhood, is a fleeting and fragile treasure. A wellspring of freedom and thinking easily crushed and erased. When a culture is controlled by numbers or tyrants or to the habits of amusement, its people grow susceptible to abuse and demagoguery..
I believe that nature intends for children to learn free of control. That in the brief window of childhood, kids—not just the young ones— should be granted the right to run and play in pursuit of their imaginings and to experience the taste of freedom and the power of fearlessness. This is not a liberal’s indulgence; it is nature’s way for us to harness productive and inventive intelligence. It is nature’s way to learn. It is a pathway for education out of the institutional strait jacket.
I have created a platform for applying play, for understanding its scientific primacy as a learning force in the young, and for directing this force into the hands of teachers and children and, most important, into the sphere of communication—a development that radically alters the nature of experience in the box we call the classroom.
While readers may balk at the subject of play in a world that views the education culture as a place suited for imposing great academic weight on teachers and the young, I would argue that the asset of play applied in the course of learning is as crucial to the minds and well being of children as wings are to the bodies of young birds preparing to fly.
For if play were to be adopted as a learning resource and a guiding principle in our schools (advice repeatedly offered by the world’s brain scientists at symposia and by the OECD), it would constitute an achievement on par with that of heavier than air flight, first demonstrated by the Wrights at Kitty Hawk, by systems of Education that have needed to transcend in commensurate measure and compatibility with the spirit of the young they serve.
We plod and drag the young through a learning system that knows no other language than that of testing, control, fear, stress, high expectations, and we believe that only more of the same practices, ratcheted higher and tighter, will result in successful learning. We are as lost on the ocean of learning just like ships in the Age of Discovery that sailed the seas blindly without longitude.
Our performance as a nation in the creation of big ideas and a renewed infrastructure is consumed by consumption and an addiction to media. With an engagement in great ideas and projects, we could have, by now, been on the road to many American solutions made in America.
The application of play in our schools would lift the pall of academic slavery and open the door to a new world of working with kids, relating content, and information, and to a system of learning that can prevent social dysfunction, mental illness, and violent behavior. My discovery would serve to correct the imbalance that now exists in our world between the human and the technical realms.
Our education system has failed in exposing the young to humanistic experience, and, indeed, has made worse the lives of children by subjecting them to an existence that has no taste of freedom or the motivation to engage responsibly in its benefits. Without such a renaissance in the education realm, our society will continue to be slowed and hampered by generations taught short answers and kept on short leashes.
The application of Play can not only ameliorate these maladies of classroom existence for both children and adults, but also transform the culture by virtue of play’s viral and infectious power. Only something as powerful as play embedded in artifice and tool can open the closed and calcified culture and render it receptive to change.