Back when I was in elementary school, my mom was strict with us using electric games. I remember asking Santa for a Nintendo D.S. on my Christmas wish list, and my mom saying to write something else as my top choice, or else she’ll write a letter to Santa saying not to get me one. (I cried and begged for a good time.) Surprisingly for my 6 year-old brain, she said ‘yes’ to a Nintendo Wii system and a Super Mario Galaxy soft. I had no idea why the latter was okay while the D.S. was not. Now I understand that it was because D.S. is mostly played by yourself, while Wii is a multiplayer thing. (The perks of growing up with 2 sibling, right?) Growing up, she didn’t buy us much toys unless it was one that the WHOLE family could enjoy.
So what did we do?
I rolled up a bunch of paper, AS TIGHTLY AS I COULD, taped them, made the strongest paper sticks ever, and had paper sword fights with my little brother. I played ‘School’ (kind of like ‘Family’) where I was the ‘teacher’ since I was the oldest, my siblings were the ‘students’ and I taught them math. Along with a ton of other games to keep us from being bored, one of them was making our own haunted house and inviting our parents and their friends in. I kid you not, it was a pretty good haunted house for a 2nd grader, a 1st grader, and a 4 year old.
During middle school, society has taught us that it’s no longer “okay” to use the term ‘play’ and instead, use ‘hang out’ instead. “You wanna hang out?” as opposed to “You wanna go play?” (just outright lame) The word ‘play’ has become one of those taboo words that we can’t use the moment we enter 6th grade. The people who use this forbidden word are labeled as ‘lame,’ a ‘loser,’ a ‘no-one-talk-to-that-kid.’ I have to admit, if someone came up to me and asked me if I wanted to play with them (with the exception of sports), I’d be a little wary and embarrassed.
Time is changing. We are changing.
Go study. Study, study, study. Study what? Parents are probably one of the few people who truly care about your future success, and I understand that they’re being hard on their children to ensure them the best possible future. BUT, as they painfully feel the education system changing from when THEY went to school versus now, they’re lost. Lost because they don’t know what exactly would get their kids a college acceptance letter and a high-paying job. It feels as if they’re stuck in a deep tunnel of darkness and their only hope is a B+ iphone flashlight. As students, WE are lost as well. That’s not their fault for being clueless; the education system is responsible for being side tracked.
The funny thing is, over the past century, our IQ scores have been rising, which most people correlate to one’s “intelligence” rising (The ‘Flynn Effect‘). In 1910, our ancestors would have an average IQ of 70, while today, our average scores range around 130-150. Crazy, right? By “intelligence,” I mean test scores. We are undoubtedly getting better at test taking— kudos to the Internet, costly test prep programs, and the rising competitiveness in the education system. Who knows, in a decade or two, our average IQs could be over 300.
But are we getting wiser? More empathic?
A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future by Daniel H. Pink discusses our societal trend where left brain intelligence (strong math skills, computer programming, test taking for example) are becoming overly abundant. Incredibly smart computer programmers from countries like India are coming to America, and no, it’s not that computer programmers are unnecessary. They are very well needed. BUT, what we also need more are “Right-Brainers.” Creativity. Empathy. Communication. Innovation. How do we grow our “right brain?”
A key answer: Play.
It no longer feels okay to play—to make forts, have rubber band wars and run around the house, to make an obstacle course for biking out in front of the house. Less play, more study. But according to many researchers, including Peter Gray, play is where our innovative skills develop. Play is where we learn to socialize with other children, and find clever ways to come up with a solution to a conflict. Over the years, play has been eroding. How many times do you see a family eating dinner “together” while everyone’s on their phones or iPads watching TV shows on their own? Not a sound of word coming from their table. How many times do you see people being so self-centered around their life, lacking empathy?
“Childhood has turned from a time from freedom to a time of resume building.” —Peter Gray
A BIG thing that resonates from Gray’s Ted Talk is this:
Childhood and teen years People of all ages, from preschoolers to 50 year olds, should be about their internal locus of control, for YOU to make things happen. To innovate. It might be just me, but nowadays, more and more people are so focused on what’s going around them. More narcissism, less empathy. Instagram and Snapchat portrays what a “perfect” human being someone is, and of course, the only things on your Instagram feed are happy photos to show what a happy person you are. A good amount of teenagers let the people around them decide their happiness and unhappiness. When you start losing control of your emotional state, things get.. well, a little messy.