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In Defense of Childhood: Protecting Kids' Inner Wildness Paperback – August 1, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Mercogliano (Teaching the Restless) isn't the first to take the current over-controlling models of parenting and education to task, but the co-director of the Albany Free School ("a noncoercive, democratic inner-city school") is one of the most passionate, and he demonstrates compellingly how institutions, over-structured schedules and "hyperconcern" are robbing children of their childhood, smothering their creative spark and "inner wildness." Exploring the life cycle from birth to adulthood, Mercogliano covers a lot of ground, taking into account history, biology, psychology, sociology, philosophy and literature, as well as plenty of anecdotes. But even in his more intellectual moments, examining the work of leading scholars and experts (including Albert Einstein and Henry David), his message is simple: in order to save our children we must allow them time for solitude and play, and restrain the urge to pathologize (and medicate) their "disruptive" behavior. He makes a convincing plea for a return to a broader, less judgmental definition of childhood "normalcy," a term that used to evoke a "Tom Sawyer/Huck Finn archetype-brash, willful, naughty, rambunctious, aggressive, and always dirty." Showing parents and teachers how to curb the "domesticating" impulses that have turned growing up into "a carefully scripted medical procedure," Mercogliano's book, full of insight, enthusiasm and hope, is as readable and practical as it is illuminating.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Mercogliano is, in effect, a cultural therapist. . . offering fresh new ideas and creative solutions. Ultimately, he is what all good therapists are: a purveyor of hope.—Mary Pipher, author of Reviving Ophelia
"With deep insight, Mercogliano shows how our society is suppressing children's creative energies. But he also brings a positive message, showing how we can help young people break through conventional restraints and pursue their passions. This is a beautiful, searching, and inspiring book."—William Crain, author of Reclaiming Childhood: Letting Children Be Children in Our Achievement-Oriented Society
"A very strong and attractive book."—John Taylor Gatto, author of Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling
"Mercogliano's book, full of insight, enthusiasm and hope, is as readable and practical as it is illuminating."—Publisher’s Weekly
"Recommended for academic libraries and large child development collections in public libraries."—Library Journal
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To be honest the overall point of this book comes across a bit radical at times, but his ideas are sound. I think it's just an odd thought to let kids have more control over their own lives because we're so used to monitoring every aspect of their lives. Which is precisely the point of this book. His approach to education was so unusual it made me shake my head at times. He works at the Albany Free School which is a school that allows children to learn whatever they want, whenever they want....and what that school does is mind boggling if you're used to the structure of an everyday public school. But after reading this book, and doing some research on the school since then I am planning on taking a trip up to New York to check this school out because what they're doing is working, and as radical as it's concept might be, it is turning out some very innovative, creative, and self reliant children into the world. I have to see it for myself.
What is so impressive about this book is it's not necessarily a "parenting" book or a research oriented book, but Mercogliano covers his theme using history, biology, psychology, sociology, education theory, philosophy, literature, and personal accounts in addition to basic parenting advice, all of which is based with solid research. He wraps it all together so well, fitting the theories of Jung with Erikson, connecting that to some of the newest brain development research. He shows where childhood has come from, how it has changed, and how our culture of industry straight through to technology has shaped those changes. The whole book is quite impressive, not to mention easy to read and concise.
I was the most impressed with the chapter on how the media has affected childhood (Ch. 7: Childhood Lost). That has been my major area of study for quite some time so I wasn't expecting to read anything I hadn't read before, but the media chapter in this book might be the best chapter I have ever read on media effects. Not only did he incorporate some well known research, but he used a lot of research I wasn't familiar with. In addition he uses media theory and philosophy to introduce and back up his points starting with Marshall McLuhan and Neil Postman (the chapter of this chapter is actually a reference to Postman's book "The Disappearance of Childhood" which is also a fantastic book, although much more dense and somewhat difficult to read by comparison to this book).
The book did have it's weak points. I felt the chapter on solitude was lacking and almost pointless at times. The point of a child needing solitude to explore his inner thoughts is an important aspect of this book, but he doesn't cover the subject well. He takes a philosophical perspective, which although interesting, could have easily been tied into some research about how important it is for children to feel bored because it encourages them to seek out and explore on their own instead of having an adult cater to their entertainment needs.
I LOVED this book, and I have read countless books on just about every child development topic possible. It's an easy book to read, it's packed with good ideas, and good advice. Not to mention the author is clearly passionate about his topic, which isn't always as obvious in books so full of information. For under $1 this book is a steal, and shouldn't be missed whether you're a parent, educator, or politician. Heck, even if you have no interest in kids you should pick this book up because surely one day you'll have a child and that child will have a soul and this book will help you nurture any child's soul, their brain... and their "inner wildness" which is about the most important thing any book can hope to accomplish. This book is fantastic, don't miss it.
I agree that we are pushing structured learning environments at kids who are way too young for them.
This book is very feel-goody about letting kids be uncivilized as the way for them to develop into healthy grown-ups. I disagree. I think civilizing kids is the job of parents, and I conclude that parents need to rethink their double-career mindset.
The better book on this topic is "The Minds of Boys" by Michael Gurian (good for advocating free childhoods for boys or girls). There is a greater emphasis for parents to become advocates for protecting their children's free time and for understanding how kids needs are (and are not) being met in early classroom environments. Check it out.
My opinion: Now is the perfect time to restructure American family priorities toward having a parent at home. Taxes have become so high on second incomes, it hardly seems worthwhile to work once you add in childcare charges, after school program charges, transportation charges, drycleaning service, housekeeping service, restaurant meals, and the opportunity cost of missing down time with your children.
***updated*** Anyway, now that we are all to become slaves of the state working to pay off an enormous public debt, you may as well let your kids grow up to become mind-numbed robots. What else will there be for them?