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Episode 173 - Peter Gray, Freedom to LEARN

Peter Gray, is a research professor of psychology at Boston College. He has conducted and published research in neuroendocrinology, developmental psychology, anthropology, and education. He is author of an internationally used introductory psychology textbook (now in its 7th edition), which views all of psychology from an evolutionary perspective. Much of his research focuses on the role of play in human evolution and how children educate themselves, through play and exploration, when they are free to do so. He has expanded on these ideas in his book, Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life. He also authors a regular blog called Freedom to Learn, for Psychology Today magazine.

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"I call it 'free play' elsewhere I just call it 'play' because in my view if it is not free, it's not really play."

"The first criteria for a activity to be 'play' is that it be freely chosen and self-directed."

"So in play, you're learning how to co-create rules which is an extremely valuable lesson for human beings everywhere because we are social animals."

"So the fact that play is a place where you're doing what you want to do it means also it's where you discover what you really like to do and what you want to become good at doing."

"'Play among other things is where children learn to create rules, but to live by rules, to control their behavior, to control their impulses."

"In my book, I point out how imagination underlies all higher order human thinking that we think of, such as hypothetical thinking, scientific thinking, even the ability to think about tomorrow which hasn't happened yet, involves imagination."

"When you are 'playing,' your mental state is one of intense involvement very alert but not highly stressed."

"Your mind is active and engaged but not stressed and that is the frame of mind that some psychologist referred to as 'flow' and there's a lot of research showing that this flow state of mind is the ideal state of mind for learning new things, for thinking outside of the box, being creative, and doing a lot of the kinds of things that we think of as sort of the highest human intellectual endeavors."

"In the process and the name of education we are depriving children of the opportunity to do the things that children need to do, to educate themselves, to learn the really important lessons of life."

"If we really care about children and we really care about humans, because children are human beings and childhood is a good portion of human life. We need to make sure that we're guaranteeing to the degree that is possible, and we know it possible because it's occurred in the past. That children have the right to be children, to play and explore, to do things on their own, and not be constantly micromanaged."

"Many, many kids are spending more time at their schoolwork then their parents are spending at their full-time 40 hour week jobs, that's a fact. Those kids would prefer the job at their parents have, they would prefer that. They would see themselves as more free if they have that job, than they have at school."

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