Albany author says too much structure kills kids’ creativity

After 35 years of working as a teacher and co-director of the Albany Free School, Chris Mercogliano

After 35 years of working as a teacher and co-director of the Albany Free School, Chris Mercogliano sensed that something was missing in the children he was teaching.

“I compared childhood today with childhood of my generation, and a kind of common thread emerged, which is that so many aspects of today’s childhood are controlled by forces outside of the child,” said Mercogliano.

Mercogliano, 54, who retired from teaching a year ago to write full time, outlines his thoughts in his latest book “In Defense of Childhood: Protecting Kids’ Inner Wildness.” (Beacon Press, $16).

“Today, virtually every arena of a child’s life is subject to some form of adult mediation, supervision or control,” writes Mercogliano, the author of four books about children. “Kids go from before-school programs to school, from school to after-school programs, and from there to a host of extracurricular lessons and organized sports. Suddenly, it occurred to me that we are witnessing not only the taming of Mark Twain’s wild boys but the systematic domestication of childhood itself.”

In his book, Mercogliano argues that only those young people who are allowed to lead unscripted, authentic childhoods will find themselves ready to become the authors of their own experience and lead lives filled with satisfaction, excitement and distinction.

“You learn self control by having opportunities to make your own choices and make your own mistakes,” said Mercogliano. “That’s how a child learns responsibility. If children are constantly supervised, constantly told what to do, they’re not going to develop the ability to become independent.”

For more of this story, read Tuesday’s edition of The Daily Gazette.

Categories: Life and Arts

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