What Happened to Imagination?

A while ago, I was motivated to write a post on my other blog about how we as parents changed from “parents” to “entertainment directors“. And how annoyed I am by it. If you want, click on over & read it. It’s okay. I’ll wait till you come back. Go ahead.

Now that you’ve got the background, I want to expound on that a little bit. I’ve been thinking more about it and had a couple things spark even more thought. The first thing was my husband. He recently has made a career change – from an attorney to a high school teacher. He talks a lot about the kids he’s been teaching. He’ absolutely blown away by today’s kids’ lack of critical/independent thought.  Somehow, we’ve moved from teachers actually TEACHING about a subject, to teachers spoon-feeding the kids exactly & only what’s going to be on the test. They aren’t requiring the kids to actually READ the textbook – instead, the teacher does it and hands out his/her notes to the students. With every concept or fact, all the kids want to know is “will this be on the test?” They have no desire or understanding of a need for learning for the sake of knowing something. That, maybe, you need to have knowledge beyond the multiple choice questions on the test in 2 weeks. And, when it comes time for the test, they expect to be told EXACTLY what will be on it. That’s how they view a review day. Not just quickly going over concepts and stuff, but being told only the things that will appear on the test. And, God forbid they should have to write an essay question’s answer.

When did this happen? When did we become like birds? That we, the adults, are just supposed to do all the chewing and then just spit it all into their mouths? When did we stop requiring, or even encouraging, THOUGHT. Making kids use their brains to figure things out, work through a problem and think for themselves?? No wonder we’re such a lemming-like culture. We turn on CNN or FOXNews or whatever and just let someone else tell us what to think. We don’t research anything ourselves or try to learn anything ourselves. We just take what we’re told as truth and memorize it.

I think I know when this started happening. Around the time that parents started scheduling every free moment of our children’s time. They don’t PLAY anymore, they go from scheduled activity to scheduled activity with time for homework and eating. And what are the scheduled activities made up of? Very planned events/practices. Whether it’s soccer or band or dance or whatever it is; you go, you warm-up, you do one planned exercise and then another and then work on a planned routine/scrimmage and then you’re done. And you never think independently or use your imagination. When you go home, if you have “free time”, you play PS3 or watch TV. And what do these do? Take you through pre-programmed games/activities/programs that do all the thinking for you.

When do we learn to THINK? Kids don’t use their imaginations anymore which, when you think about it, is what develops into critical thought and independent thinking. If you don’t know HOW to think, how do you think?

This actually really concerns me. Even my own kids have less imaginative play than I did as a child, and they have quite a bit. They get bored and expect me to think of activities for them because they haven’t developed imagination enough. I know a lot of that is grown out of, but I think we need to be really returning to more free play that doesn’t involve a controller or a digital signal.

I don’t know – what do you think? I know this is a problem, I don’t know if I’ve nailed it down right. I really want my kids to be excellent at thinking for themselves. Being critical and not taking things at face value. Developing their own opinions based not on what they’re TOLD but on what they THINK. Because how can we as a society/culture hope to find the “new” and the solution to problems if we don’t know how to think? How to back up from a problem and find a new way in? There is more in life than the “right answer” to get an A on a test. Y’know?

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