Notes on “Free to Learn” by Peter Gray – Part 3

Page 33 “Hunter-gatherer children learn about plant-based foods in the same general way they learn to hunt. They hear stories. They join their mothers and other adults on gathering trips.” Just like going to the grocery store! My children weren’t shut away in a classroom. They were with me in the world, experiencing it, with adults nearby to answer questions and help.

All of their play is in age-mixed groups, of children ranging from about four on up to mid-teens.” Much like the park days we participated in when the kids were younger. The more mixed the ages, the better they all seemed to get along.

Page 34 “Social play (that is, all play that involves more than one player) is, by its very nature, a continuous exercise in cooperation, attention to one another’s needs, and consensual decision-making. Play is not something one has to do; players are always free to quit. In social play, each player know that anyone who feel unhappy will quit, and if too many quit, the game ends.” This is what is missing and it best served by homeschool park days. I wish more people would see it though. There are very few people that understand this and make the effort to come to the park once a week. They don’t prioritize it and get to it if they can. They use it as a reward for kids if they’ve completed school work. And then if they do come, they feel compelled to jump in and direct anything the kids are doing. Instead of bringing a ball and leaving it for kids to play with, they organize a game of baseball and make sure that all the kids are allowed (or forced) to play.

Page 37 “To be a successful adult hunter-gatherer (really an adult anywhere, anytime),one must not only be able to share and cooperate with others, but also be able to assert one’s own needs and wishes effectively, without antagonizing others. Practice at such self-assertion occurs in social play everywhere, as players negotiate the rules and decide who get to play what part.” I see this at our homeschool activity club on a small scale and it’s pretty awesome. I’ve also found that children that are respected and not forced to share and “get along” until they are ready, are more respectful and generous with others. It’s as if they have to have their bucket of self full before they can share with others. When they are younger (the under five set) that bucket is quickly filled. The older they get and the more they are forced to share and get along, the slower the bucket is filled and they become nastier as they grow older. It’s really kind of sad. Most people will force a baby to share and play nice with others thinking that if they don’t they will spoil the child and make them fierce, when in reality the opposite is true.

Page 44 “The hunter-gatherer way of life was knowledge-intensive and skill-intensive, but not labor-intensive.” He paints pre-agricultural life and idyllic, as if ever thing was much better back then. If it were, why would anything have changed? Farming is more reliable for food than hunting and gathering. More people were fed. More people lived. More people were safe. It’s a natural evolution of society. We’ve moved on from agriculture now but people refuse to see it. They want to go back to each family working their own land from dawn to dusk. Or wandering the land looking for food. Why not look forward and see what we have now can evolve into a lifestyle that emulates the hunter-gatherer way of life but in a much more peaceful and secure way? I see us using new technologies to evolve society into something that is the best of both worlds and something new; the peaceful, respectful life of hunter-gatherers and the food security and safety of agricultural society.

Page 49 “they found that the more violent a society was overall, the more likely it was that parents used corporal punishment.” I really don’t see how people don’t see this.

Mainstream society sees children as something to raise up and train in the way they should go, but we don’t. I see them as fully formed masters of their own individual lives. As parents, we are to give them the soil to grow in. We are there to support them in growing into what they are destined to become of their own accord.

While I agree with his ideas about parenting and society, I really don’t see the evolution of society as such a negative thing, more like a natural progression. It seems he condemns the very thing (agriculture and capitalism) that has brought us to the technological age that we are in. I see it as a new evolution, a way to become something even greater than we were in the past. I don’t look back longingly on primitive societies. I look forward to a new age born out of the old.

I’m also not a fan of the way he treats religion as a scourge on the earth. I agree that men who wish to rule others have used religion to those ends, but I do not believe that is the nature of God.

Page 61 On Prussian education. “The principal theme of the German curriculum was nationalism.” “Schooling came to seen as a state function that was essential for national security, not unlike the army.” When I read about the Prussian education system all I see is our own. It terrifies me because people don’t see it in our system today at all. It’s as if we are brain washed not to see it. Our system isn’t about “education” at all. It’s about control. And it’s become the new state religion along with nationalism.


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