Educators can’t distinguish between childish games and real threats
Last week, the Wall Street Journal‘s Alison Gopnik reported on research from professors Jacqueline Wooley at the University of Texas and Paul Harris at Harvard that showed a surprising degree of sophistication among preschool kids. Apparently, though they spend a lot of time in fantasy pursuits, they’re actually quite good at distinguishing fantasy from reality:
Children understand the difference. They know that their beloved imaginary friend isn’t actually real and that the terrifying monster in their closet doesn’t actually exist (though that makes them no less beloved or scary). But children do spend more time than we do thinking about the world of imagination. They don’t actually confuse the fantasy world with the real one; they just prefer to hang out there.
On reading that, my first thought was that these kids are actually a lot better at distinguishing between fantasy and reality than the teachers and administrators in the schools that they attend.
At South Eastern Middle School in Fawn Grove, Pa., for example, 10-year-old Johnny Jones was suspended for using an imaginary bow and arrow. That’s right – – not a real bow and arrow, but an imaginary bow and arrow. A female classmate saw this infraction, tattled to a teacher, and the principal gave Jones a one-day suspension for making a “threat” in class.
To be fair, it probably takes a lot of imagination to turn what sounds like a bit of old-fashioned cowboys-and-Indians play into a “threat.” But while the principal, John Horton, gets an “A” for imagination, he deserves an “F” for distinguishing between imagination and reality. Sadly, he’s not alone.