Peter Gray’s book Free to Learn (Basic Books 2013) is an informed and absorbing account of how children are designed to physiologically learn through play and which are the most ideal conditions for them to learn in.
Gray brings to us a vast range of evidence to illustrate his belief that children learn best from themselves and discusses how children’s innate sense of playfulness, sociability and curiosity combines to create extraordinary fertile conditions for learning.
Children cannot help but learn through play when given the opportunity and Gray looks at Hunter Gatherer societies to establish the original conditions that human children would have learnt in and how our brains are organically structured to learn.
Gray looks at the history of education to explain the present structure of schools and how they are outdated for the kind of learning we need for today. Gray argues that schools do not leverage children’s natural learning abilities and often run contrary to them.
Children’s natural and insatiable ability to learn is illustrated through various fascinating case studies such as Sudbury Valley school in the States where there are no lessons, and various inspiring projects that Sugata Mitra has carried out in India. Learning for Gray is far broader than ABC and I can guarantee you will never read a school report in the same light again!
Peter Gray, Ph.D., research professor at Boston College, is author of Free to Learn (Basic Books, 2013) and Psychology (Worth Publishers, a college textbook now in its 7th edition). He has conducted and published research in comparative, evolutionary, developmental, and educational psychology. He did his undergraduate study at Columbia University and earned a Ph.D. in biological sciences at Rockefeller University. His current research and writing focus primarily on children’s natural ways of learning and the life-long value of play.