Laura Eberhart Goodman is a parent and a retired teacher. She is upset that her children come home from elementary school exhausted, frustrated, and listless. When she asks them about the good things that happened that day, they can’t think of anything unless it was during lunch or recess. They have been subjected to scripted learning and continual assessment. There is no play, no imaginative activities, no fun, no good memories. It shouldn’t be like this. Thanks, President George W. Bush. Thanks, Sandy Kress and Margaret Spellings. Thanks, President Obama. Thanks, Arne Duncan. You ruined childhood for millions of children.


She writes:



From a parental perspective, a good learning environment is one with positive energy. The teachers want to be there, and the children want to be there. No one is counting the minutes to the end of the day before it has even started.

From an educator’s perspective, an environment that is engaging, hands-on, with opportunities for meaningful learning, practice, discussions, and creativity, makes kids happy. When kids are happy, they learn more, and without having to resort to bribery. It’s not rocket science.
When the learning environment becomes very serious, and relies heavily on assessment and grades, learning targets and goals, it is not as enjoyable. It is “work”, and children don’t enjoy work. It’s not in their nature to enjoy work; children are created to learn through play.

You will have as much success asking a tiger not to have stripes as you will asking children not to play. I was watching two children at the post office the other day waiting to get passports, and they had been there for quite a long time. They developed a game using one of their jackets, and entertained themselves nicely with it. It is as natural as breathing for children to play. What defines “play”? Any activity that engages the imagination and creativity, two skills that lead to innovation and problem solving when practiced often enough.

We can’t expect them to do work in the same way that an adult does work. We are not the same. They don’t have to pay a mortgage and I get to stay up as late as I want to. One is not better or worse than the other; they are different.

Just because students may have to sit in an office for 8 hours a day when they are adults, doesn’t mean that they should have to start practicing it now as children. It is like saying to a ten year old, “One day you’re going to pay taxes, so I’m going to keep 50% of your birthday money from Grandma because I want you to get used to it.”

There’s a proper time for everything.

Why has elementary school become the time for instructional and assessment methods that are more appropriate for high school and college students?