More Time to Play

Cognitive develpmental neuroscientist Adele Diamond from “The Science of Attention,” On BeingAugust 7 2014 (previous versions): 

Educators are worried that you need that content for the exams that you're going to take, but what's more important is that you should want to learn. What's more important is for you to know how to find that information if you need it. What's more important is for you to learn how to problem solve and use that information.

But I agree that education needs to change, but ... what I see is that we need to look back. I think there was a lot of wisdom of previous generations of the evolutionary past of our species that we're ignoring because we tend to think that we're going to be modern and we can do better than our parents and grandparents did. But there are certain things that have been part of the human condition for thousands of years, and I think that they've probably been part of the human condition for a good reason. Otherwise they would've been weeded out.

Music has always been part. Dance has been part. Storytelling has been part. The play of children has been part. And there are good reasons why these have been part. And the schools are tending to think, "Oh, my god. We don't have time for play. And we don't have time for the arts...We have to focus on the academic content, because you're going to get tested at the end of the year and we have to make sure they do well on these tests."

But our research and others are showing that if the children have more time to play, they do better on these academic outcome measures than if they spend more time in direct academic instruction. And things like the arts or sports or any of these other things — they develop your cognitive skills dependent on prefrontal cortex — like sustaining attention, like being able to hold information in mind...

They also use your body and we know that if you're physically healthy, your prefrontal cortex and brain work better, specifically your prefrontal cortex. And leading a sedentary life is terrible for your brain health or your cognitive health. So the arts and sports and play tend to incorporate all these things in an organic way.