#234 Mark & Steve – Are Kids Overprogrammed?
Mark: Hello again for another EnglishLingQ installment; Mark here with Steve.
Mark: How's it going today?
Steve: Oh, not too bad. You know what I thought we should talk about is children.
Steve: It just seems to me that if I compare my childhood, which is a long time ago, to what goes on now, I think parents are much more sort of ambitious for their kids; organizing their kids, getting them into activities, whether it be sports or music. It seems that parents spend half their time organizing or driving their children to events and that the children don't do as much on their own as they used to. I don't know whether you feel this compared to your childhood.
Mark: I mean I think that's definitely true; although, it's not that much different than when I was a kid. Yeah, we spent a lot of time going to different events; being taken to different events. I remember you complaining when I was a kid that, you know, when I was your age I'd just show up at the field and all my friends were there and we'd play football all day; whereas, that really didn't happen for me that much.
Steve: No. It's true; there are lots of playgrounds here in Vancouver. Either there's an organized event there, kids in uniform playing soccer or baseball, or they're empty. You don't just have people showing up; whereas, when I was young at all the fields there would be baseball games. You'd go down there and we would organize something. We would divide up into two teams…or football, we didn't play soccer. In the winter they would flood the skating rinks and if you went down there and I would go down there everyday after supper and on the weekends and we'd be there for hours. There would three or four games going in different directions, different ages of kids, but there were always kids at the park.
Mark: I mean I think that still happens with hockey when you have an outdoor rink that just sits there when it's not taken up by organized hockey. Like when we're at Big White skiing on vacations there is an outdoor rink and that's what happens there; people show up and join in the game and I think it's the same. It's not cold enough in Vancouver for outdoor ice like that, but I think where they do have rinks that still happens; although, probably not as much.
Steve: You know it's interesting…I'm trying to sort of think of reasons; one might be that the families were much bigger when I was growing up. Parents didn't have so much time to spend on one or two children, because they had more children, so the children had to kind of look after themselves and create their own entertainment and their own activities. Whereas, now, perhaps parents have children later, although, that wasn't your case and it wasn't my case, of course, so they are much more serious about their parenting activities, maybe.
Mark: Could be. Also, maybe there are more things to do now, you know, between the computer, the TV, and the different entertainments that people can take part in. Plus, maybe the fact that communication is easier, in a way, so it's easier to organize events and once you have organized events then the unorganized kind maybe take a backseat because if it's not organized all of a sudden people don't show up anymore; whereas, before they would just show up.
Mark: I'm not really sure.
Steve: You know it's interesting, it reminds me of the story that's told about how these boys used to show up on this field and play football right near this old man's home and they were very noisy, so the old man didn't like them playing football there. He said, boys, I really like you coming here to play football and if you keep coming I'll give you each .25¢ every time you show up. The boys thought that was great, so they showed up for a couple of weeks and played football and then the old man said, you know, I can't afford .25¢ anymore, but I'll give you each .10¢ if you show up. They were happy with that and they came and played football. Then, finally, the old man said, you know what, I can't afford to pay you anymore, so I won't be able to give you anything, but please keep coming out and then the kids stopped showing up.
Now whether that's a true story or not, who knows, you know, who knows. But, it is true, once you get organizing kids then they don't necessarily organize themselves anymore, so that could be part of it.
Mark: Yeah. I mean they're happy to…on the other hand, on the playground…like if they're all at school, if they're all there, they organize their own activities at lunch hour and so on, but I guess they don't all show up somewhere on the weekend. I mean once you get the kids in one place they're happy to play on their own; they don't need supervision.
Steve: But this relates to another thing, too, and that is when I was growing up everybody walked or bicycled to school. Whereas, now, people are driven or they take a school bus, so there seems to be this feeling that you can't just let kids wander off on their own to do things.
Mark: I mean some people are a little more uptight about that kind of thing than others, but after a certain age a lot of kids wander around, just like they used to. I don't know that that's…I mean that's part of the story, for sure. Some people their kids have to be driven everywhere. But…I've forgotten what I was going to say now.
Steve: But, this whole business of organizing. I mean even in the schools, you know, I don't want to be always critical of the education system, but they're always coming up with new ideas, new ways. Here in Canada at least the teachers regularly get what are called “professional days” where they have meetings and talk about how they can do things better. And I'm not convinced that educational standards are getting better; I'm not sure that kids read better now than they did before. So, I don't know, maybe it was always that way.
You know, apparently, if you go back to ancient Greece the older generation was always complaining about the younger generation, so it would seem to suggest that the older generation was pretty good. Whereas, in fact, if you go back, they had some pretty awful things; life was short, they were pretty violent. So, who knows?
Mark: Who knows; I mean I think that's always a part of it. The older generation thinks what goes on nowadays is no good, compared to when I was a kid. I mean that's, obviously, a pretty common theme.
Mark: But there are things that…I was reading an article in the newspaper today, or, online, actually, Google News, talking about how some researcher had come out with a study saying that all the efforts at preventing boys from engaging in violent acts or playing with violent toys or preventing them from playing violent computer games may, in fact, have a negative effect. Because, as she claims, those are valuable outlets for natural tendencies in boys and if you stifle that then it leads to other problems; it leads to them not doing as well in school and so forth. I mean I don't know if that's the reason, but, certainly, boys don't do as well in school now as they used to. There's a variety of theories for that, but that was one I read today.
Steve: Well, you know then you hear the theory that violent TV programs and violent computer games contribute to violence and, yet, if you look at some of the most violent places in the world, like the wars they had in Yugoslavia or even in Rwandan and some of the examples of tremendously violent activities, I don't think it was television violence that contributed…
Steve: …to those activities, so, who knows.
Mark: What's more, it mentioned in this study, as well, that over the last 10 years say or 15 years there's been an explosion in the usage of violent computer games and it has not seen a corresponding increase in violent crime. In fact, there's been a decrease, so certainly that correlation can't be drawn.
Steve: Although the decrease in violent crime might be related to the population getting older; I don't know if they looked at that particular cohort, as they say, that age group.
Mark: I'm not sure, exactly, but they implied that, in fact, it had the reverse effect on violence with the increased usage of violent computer games.
Steve: Well all of these different subjects create very useful areas of study for sociologists and educators. They can apply for funding and do in-depth studies that all contradict each other and get published and then you read about them in your newspaper.
Mark: That's right; that's essentially it.
Mark: Although, I do think that there is some truth to the fact that you don't want to drown kids in violent movies and violent video games. But I've seen parents that won't let their little boy play with a sword or a water gun; well, in my opinion, that's just silly. Obviously there's some innate tendency to want to play with weapons of some kind…
Mark: …especially in boys and, you know, most people turnout just fine, so…
Steve: I think, too, that the emphasis should not be on what you can take away from boys or children, in general, it's what can you do to stimulate their interest. Stimulate their interest, you know, in things so that they can learn about things and discover things.
One of my hobbyhorses, when it comes to language training or anything, is to not have the teacher dictate too much. You know, within a particular area, let the child explore, particularly when they're very young, things that are of interest to them or put some choices in front of them. Now, maybe some people don't like choice, I don't know…
Steve: …but a lot of what we learned at school is not very interesting. You know I saw a video on YouTube the other day where a bunch of Americans, at random, were asked questions about world geography and they didn't know much.
Steve: They were even asked the question, you know, how many sides to a triangle? The person didn't know, so this was used, of course, quite unfairly to say, oh, well, the Americans are all poorly educated.
Mark: Those movies always tend to be a little…
And then someone went out to say, well, we'll do the same in Germany and England and people were just as stupid.
Mark: Yeah, exactly; for sure.
Steve: I mean you can always edit out the people who have a good answer and you can always find people in every country who probably didn't focus on your question or whatever, so.
But, it is true that we can all learn more and the more interesting they make it at school the more likely kids are to learn.
Steve: So that, you know, whether it be…it's a fine line between either parents or teachers imposing activities or what to do on children and allowing children to explore. Whether they want to go and play on their own, whether they want to play with a sword and if you don't give them a sword they'll get a stick and they'll do it, you know, you've got to let kids explore.
The other theory I know is that…especially the boys, again, because there is the issue of boys not doing as well in school… there's less discipline in schools now than there used to be and if there was more discipline perhaps that might get those boys to pay attention more, I don't know.
Mark: I mean you're saying you want to let them explore.
Mark: I guess they can explore, but behave at the same time…
Steve: Oh, absolutely!
Mark: …is obviously a requirement. Now, well, teachers don't have much power to enforce discipline in their classrooms.
I mean the other thing is -- and we said this before -- I mean we used to have corporal punishment. In other words, I used to get hit when I was in school and if ever a teacher, you know, criticized me my parents would always side with the teacher.
Steve: Whereas, now, parents tend to side with their child.
Steve: And I agree with you, much more discipline.
I think teachers should come properly dressed to school. I mean I see teachers wearing jeans in the classroom; I just think that's wrong. I think the teacher should wear, you know, I don't know, perhaps a jacket, maybe not a tie, but that there should be a certain uniform. This is a teacher, a person that you respect and you don't call him by his first name or her first name or any of this kind of stuff. But I think you can still structure the learning activities in a way that allows the children to explore.
But I agree with you on discipline, absolutely. It just destroys it for those…because it's normally a small group who are disrupting it for the majority.
Mark: Well, exactly. The teacher spends all their time trying to get this small group to pay attention or stop distracting the rest of the class and it is kind of silly.
Anyway, I'm sure there are lots of reasons…
Mark: …and lots of future studies for all the sociologists out there.
Mark: They'll probably still be arguing about this generations from now.
Steve: For sure.
Mark: Well, with that…
Steve: Okay, yeah.
Mark: …I think we'll sign off.
Steve: For all you parents out there and children…
Mark: …let us know what your thoughts are on education. Talk to you later.