The Many Benefits, for Kids, of Playing Video Games

Written by Peter Gray.

Quite a few parents have asked me, at talks I’ve given, about the advisability of their limiting their kids’ computer play. Others have told me that they do limit their kids’ computer play, or their total daily “screen time,” in a tone that seemed to suggest that any reasonable parent would do that.

People who have been reading this blog can probably guess my reaction. I have a very high opinion of children’s abilities to make good choices about how to use their free time, as long as they really have choices. Some kids go through long periods of doing what seems like just one thing, and then some adults think there’s something wrong, because they (the adults) would not make that choice. But in my experience, if kids are really free to play and explore in lots of different ways, and they end up playing or exploring in what seems to be just one way, then they are doing that because they are getting something really meaningful out of it. For a nice example of this, you might watch the film on the home page of the Sudbury Valley School website, where a young man describes his year of doing almost nothing but computer play.

It is always a mistake, I think, to tell kids what they must or must not do, except in those cases where you are telling them that they must do their share of the chores around the house or must not do things that hurt you or other people. Whenever we prevent our kids from playing or exploring in the ways they prefer, we place another brick in a barrier between them and us. We are saying, in essence, “I don’t trust you to control your own life.” Children are suffering today not from too much computer play or too much screen time. They are suffering from too much adult control over their lives and not enough freedom (see essay on rise of depression and anxiety).

Kids who are really free know what is best for them, especially concerning how they should spend their free time. Every kid is different, just as every adult is, and we can’t get into their heads and find out just what they are getting out of something that we don’t understand. I know well a kid who, for years, spent hours per day watching television shows that I thought were really disgustingly dumb; but, over time, I discovered that she was getting a lot out of them. They were making her think in new ways. She understood all the ways in which the shows were dumb, at least as well as I did; but she also saw ways in which they were smart, and she analyzed them and learned from them. They contributed greatly to her abilities as an actress (she eventually had major parts in high-school plays), because she acted out the parts vicariously, in her mind, as she watched. They also contributed to her fascination with certain aspects of human psychology. She now wants to go into clinical psychology as a career.

I’ve also known kids who spent huge amounts of time reading–just sitting and reading, “doing nothing!” for maybe 10 hours a day. There were always some kids like that, even when I was a kid. I could never understand why they would want to just sit and read when they could go fishing with me instead. What a waste of time. However, I’ve never known a parent to limit their kids’ reading time. Why is it any better to limit TV or computer time than to limit book-reading time? Why do we worry about a kid’s spending maybe 4 or 5 hours a day at a computer screen, doing what he wants to do, but don’t worry about the same kid sitting at school for 6 hours a day and then doing homework for another couple of hours–doing what others are forcing him to do? I ask you to consider the possibility that the kid is learning more valuable lessons at the computer than at school, in part because the computer activity is self-chosen and the school activity is not.

Computers are the most important tools of modern society. Why would we limit kids’ opportunities to play with them?

Why would we want to limit a kid’s computer time? The computer is, without question, the single most important tool of modern society. Our limiting kids’ computer time would be like hunter-gatherer adults limiting their kids’ bow-and-arrow time. Children come into the world designed to look around and figure out what they need to know in order to make it in the culture into which they are born. They are much better at that than adults are. That’s why they learn language so quickly and learn about the real world around them so much faster than adults do. That’s why kids of immigrant families pay more attention to the language spoken by their new peers, in the new culture, than to the old language spoken by their parents. That’s also why, whenever there’s a new technological innovation, kids learn how to use it more quickly than their parents do. They know, instinctively, what they must learn in order to succeed.

Why do we keep hearing warnings from “authorities”–including the American Academy of Pediatricians–that we must limit kids’ computer play? Some of the fear mongering comes, I think, from a general tendency on the part of us older folks to distrust any new media. Plato, in The Republic, argued that plays and poetry should be banned because of their harmful effects on the young. When writing came about and became technically easier, and was enthusiastically seized upon by the young, some of their elders warned that this would rot their minds; they would no longer have to exercise their memories. When printed novels became available to the masses, many warned that these would lead the young, especially girls and young women, to moral degeneracy. When televisions began to appear in people’s homes, all sorts of dire warnings were sounded about the physical, psychological, and social damage they would cause.

Video games have been under attack by the fear-mongers ever since they first appeared, and the attacks have not diminished. If you Google around the Internet using harmful effects of video games as a search phrase, you will find all sorts of frightening claims. One site warns that video games can cause depression, physical aggression, poor sleep, somatic complaints, obesity, attention disorders, and … the list went on. The only malady they seemed to have left out was acne.

The most common complaints about video games are that they (1) are socially isolating, (2) reduce opportunities for outdoor activities and thereby lead to obesity and poor physical health, and (3) promote violence in kids, if the games have violent content. On the face of it, of course, the first two of these claims should be truer of book reading than of video gaming. Concerning the third claim, I don’t see any obvious reason why pretend murder of animated characters in video games should be any more likely to provoke real murder than, say, reading Shakespeare’s account of Hamlet’s murder of his stepfather. Yet we make kids read Hamlet in school.

Research refutes the frightening myths about harmful effects of computer games.

If you look into the actual research literature, you find very little if any evidence supporting the fear-mongers claims, and considerable evidence against those claims. In fact, systematic surveys have shown that regular video-game players are, if anything, more physically fit, less likely to be obese, more likely to also enjoy outdoor play, more socially engaged, more socially well-adjusted, and more civic minded than are their non-gaming peers.[1] A large-scale study in four cities in Holland showed–contrary to what I assume was the initial hypothesis–that kids who had a computer and/or a television set in their own room were significantly more likely to play outside than were otherwise similar kids who didn’t have such easy and private access to screen play.[2] A study by the Pew Research Center concluded that video games, far from being socially isolating, serve to connect young people with their peers and to society at large.[3] Other research has documented, qualitatively, the many ways that video games promote social interactions and friendships.[4] Kids make friends with other gamers, both in person and online. They talk about their games with one another, teach one another strategies, and often play together, either in the same room or online.

Concerning violence, meta-analyses of the many studies designed to find effects of violent video games on real-world violence have concluded that, taken as a whole, there is precious little or no evidence at all of such effects.[5] It’s interesting, also, to note that over the decades in which violent video gaming has been steadily rising, there has been a steady and large decline in real-world violence by youth.[6] I’m not about to claim that the decline in real-world violence is in any significant way caused by the rise in violent video games, but, there is some evidence that playing such games helps people learn how to control their hostility. In one experiment, college students were presented with a frustrating mental task and then were assessed for their feelings both of depression and hostility. The significant finding was that regular players of violent video games felt less depressed and less hostile 45 minutes after the frustrating experience than did otherwise similar students who didn’t play such games.[7]

I have to admit that I personally hate graphic depictions of violence, in games or anywhere else, but I claim no moral virtue in that. I’m just squeamish. My wife and step-kids, who are every bit as nonviolent in real life as I am, tease me about it. They talk about screening movies for me, and they have gotten used to going to certain movies without me.

Video games have been shown to have many positive effects on brainpower.

Quite a few well-controlled research studies have documented positive effects of video games on mental development. Repeated experiments have shown that playing fast-paced action video games can quite markedly increase players’ scores on tests of visuospatial ability, including tests that are used as components of standard IQ tests.[8] Other studies suggest that, depending on the type of game, video games can also increase scores on measures of working memory (the ability to hold several items of information in mind at once), critical thinking, and problem solving.[9] In addition, there is growing evidence that kids who previously showed little interest in reading and writing are now acquiring advanced literacy skills through the text-based communication in on-line video games.[10]

When kids are asked, in focus groups and surveys, what they like about video games, they generally talk about freedom, self-direction, and competence.[11] In the game, they make their own decisions and strive to meet challenges that they themselves have chosen. At school and in other adult-dominated contexts they may be treated as idiots who need constant direction, but in the game they are in charge and can solve difficult problems and exhibit extraordinary skills. In the game, age does not matter, but skill does. In these ways, video games are like all other forms of true play.

The special benefits of MMORPGs

Over time, video games have become increasingly complex and multifaceted. Perhaps the most interesting games today are the so-called Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs), such as World of Warcraft, which are even more social than were previous video games and offer endless opportunities for creativity and problem solving.[12]

In these online games, players create a character (an avatar), which has unique physical and psychological traits and assets, and, with that character, enter a complex and exciting virtual world that is simultaneously occupied by countless other players, who in their real-life forms may be sitting anywhere on the planet. Players go on quests within this virtual world, and along the way they meet other players, who might become friends or foes. Players may start off playing solo, avoiding others, but to advance to the higher levels they have to make friends and join with others in mutual quests. Making friends within the game requires essentially the same skills as making friends in the real world. You can’t be rude. You have to understand the etiquette of the culture you are in and abide by that etiquette. You have to learn about the goals of a potential friend and help that individual to achieve those goals. Depending on how you behave, players may put you on their friends list or their ignore list, and they may communicate positive or negative information about you to other players. The games offer players endless opportunities to experiment with different personalities and ways of behaving, in a fantasy world where there are no real-life consequences for failing.

Players in these games can also join special-interest groups called guilds. To join a guild, a player (or, more accurately, the player’s avatar) must fill out an application form, much like a job application, explaining why he or she would be a valuable member. Guilds generally have structures that are similar to companies in the real world, with leaders, executive boards, and even recruitment personnel. Such games are, in many ways, like the imaginative sociodramatic games of preschool children, but played in a virtual world, with communication by online text, and raised up many notches in sophistication to fit the interests and abilities of the older children, teenagers, and adults who play them. Like all sociodramatic games, they are very much anchored in an understanding of the real world, and they exercise concepts and social skills that are quite relevant to that world. In fact, a study commissioned by the IBM Corporation concluded that the leadership skills exercised within MMORPGs are essentially the same as those required to run a modern company.[13]


[1] See: (a) Wack & Trantleff-Dunn (2009), “relationship between electronic game play, obesity, and psychosocial functioning in young men; CyberPsychology & Behavior, 12, 241-244; (b) Williams et al (2008), “Who plays, how much, and why? Debunking the stereotypical gamer profile; Journal of Computer Mediated Communication, 13, 993-1018; (c) Durkin & Barber (2002); “Not so doomed: Computer game play and positive adolescent development,” Applied Developmental Psychology, 23, 373-392.
[2] Aarts et al. (2010). “Environmental determinants of outdoor play in children: A large-scale cross-sectional study.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 39, 212-219.
[3] Lenhart et al. (2008). “Teens, video games and civics: Teens gaming experiences are diverse and include significant social interactions and civic engagements,” report of the Pew Research Center. Available online.
[4] (a) Olson, C. K. (2010). Children’s motivation for video game play in the context of normal development. Review of General Psychology, 14, 180-187; (b) Stevens et al. (2008). “In-game, in-room, in-world: reconnecting video game play to the rest of kids’ lives. pp 41-66 in K. Salen (Ed.), The ecology of games: Connecting youth, games, and learning. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation series on digital media and learning. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
[5] Ferguson, C. (2010). Blazing angels or resident evil? Can violent video games be a force for good? Review of General Psychology, 14, 68-81.
[6] Ferguson (2010).
[7] Ferguson, C., & Rueda, S. M. (2010). The Hitman study: Violent video game exposure effects on aggressive behavior, hostile feelings, and depression. European Psychologist, 15, 99-108.
[8] (a) Green, C. S., & Bavelier, D. (2003). Action video game modifies visual selective attention. Nature, 423, 534-537; (b) Spence, I., & Feng, J. (2010). Video games and spatial cognition. Review of General Psychology, 14, 92-104.
[9] Akilli, G. K. (2007) Games and simulations: A new approach in education? In D. Gibson, C. Aldrich, & M. Prensky (Eds.), Games and simulations in online learning: Research and development frameworks (pp. 1-20). Hershey, PA: Information Science.
[10] Black, R. W., & Steinkuehler, C. (2009). Literacy in virtual worlds. In L. Christenbury, R. Bomer, & P. Smargorinsky (Eds.), Handbook of adolescent literacy research (pp. 271-286). New York: Guilford.
[11] (a) McLoed, L., & Lin, L. (2010). A child’ power in game-play. Computers & Education, 54, 517-527; (b) Olson, C. K. (2010). Children’s motivation for video game play in the context of normal development. Review of General Psychology, 14, 180-187; (c) Przybylski, A. K., Weinstein, N., Ryan, R. M., & Rigby, C. S. (2009). Having versus wanting to play: Background and consequences of harmonious versus obsessive engagement in video games. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 12, 485-492.; (d) Yee, N. (2006). Motivations for play in online games. Cyberpsychology & Behavior, 9, 772-775.
[12] Barnett, J., & Coulson, M. (2010). Virtually real: A psychological perspective on massively multiplayer online games. Review of General Psychology, 14, 167-179.
[13] Reaves, B., & Malone, T. W. (2007). Leadership in games and work: Implications for the enterprise of massively multiplayer online role-playing games. Seriosity, Inc. Published online at IBM.pdf

Originally published at

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The Broken Infant Fallacy

Written by Skip Oliva.

Awhile back I saw an article in one of the Canadian papers about some group calling for three-year-olds to be placed in government schools. The funny thing was the group’s argument was less about what was in the best interests of the kids and more about promoting job growth. In other words, if we make all three-year-olds go to school, then we have to go out and hire a bunch of “qualified” teachers to watch them. This means not just a bunch of new teaching jobs, but jobs teaching the teachers (to become “qualified”) and, of course, parents can now go out and get jobs instead of staying home with their kids. It’s the Broken Window Fallacy, but with live humans instead of windows!

The period between birth and roughly the age of five is troublesome for central planners. As long as children remain dependent on their parents — and not “society,” as controlled by the state — there’s a risk of them developing habits that will become impossible to break once they enter a state-sanctioned institution, i.e. Kindergarten. The state has made several inroads to separate children from parents, such as the demonization of “co-sleeping,” the practice of a mother and child sleeping together. Periodically you’ll see hysterical local news reports warning about the dangers of co-sleeping, which of course has been safely practiced by humans for thousands of years. To the extent there are problems with co-sleeping, it’s because of inappropriate bedding material or the parent’s general unfitness (i.e., they’re alcoholics). Co-sleeping itself is a necessary product of human evolution. Few mammalian species leave their children alone at night to fend for themselves.

The real problem is that co-sleeping, like many aspects of early childhood, is a relationship that exists outside of the state. There’s no government regulation of co-sleeping. A parent who foregoes a crib (a product regulated by federal authorities) and a separate bedroom for her child is not spending money — and thus, not paying sales taxes to the local government. More alarmingly, the child isn’t being taught to substitute material desire for human contact. In the eyes of central planners, a peaceful co-sleeping child is an abomination. An isolated child “comforted” by a $100 Teddy bear is a future consumer-and-taxpayer-in-training.

Then there’s the single biggest threat to state control of childhood — breastfeeding. Officially, governments claim to support breastfeeding, and there are any number of propaganda sites where you’ll see such messages. But that’s just a facade. The planners go out of their way to encourage rejection of breastfeeding as anything more than a short-term option. Consider the widespread demonization of the female breast, as exemplified by the FCC’s long crusade to punish a brief appearance by Janet Jackson’s nipples on national television. I’m not suggesting there was some hidden FCC agenda to discourage breastfeeding; I’m saying that the government gladly promotes the cultural taboo that breasts are sexual objects first and a source of infant nutrition second.

More recently, the FDA has crusaded against raw animal milks sold by farmers. The FDA insists, without evidence, that such milks are always unsafe to consumer. Which begs the question: If raw animal milks are always unsafe, how can raw human milk ever be safe? Remember, the FDA regulates the content of infant formula (even though the term “formula” falsely implies there’s a uniform composition to these artificial milks). It can’t regulate the content of human milk. Government agencies generally don’t like anyone competing with them, and this case, every nursing mother is little more than a potential terrorist.

“Extended” nursing — breastfeeding past one year — poses a major challenge for central planners. As with co-sleeping, which promotes frequent nursing, the longer a child depends on his mother for nutrition, the longer he’s kept away from the state-managed food system. Human milk does not follow USDA dietary guidelines. A nursing toddler is “untrained.” In a school environment, he can be forced to delay eating until an arbitrary “lunchtime.” He can be kept immobile at his desk until an arbitrary “recess,” assuming one is even allowed, so he can’t work off the calories he just consumed. He can learn to be sedentary and passive.

Ideally, if you extend the “let’s put three-year-olds in school” argument to its logical conclusion, human children would be separated from their mothers soon after birth, much like dairy farmers do with goats. This way, their diet can be strictly monitored for compliance with federal guidelines, mothers could re-enter the workforce sooner (driving down employers’ labor costs), and children would learn from the age of three months or so that they can’t exist outside the central planners’ view of “society.” And hopefully, they’ll finally do well on those  standardized tests!

Originally published at

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28 Signs That U.S. Public Schools Are Rapidly Being Turned Into Indoctrination Centers And Prison Camps

Written by Michael Snyder.

It has been said that children are our future, and right now the vast majority of our children are being “educated” in public schools that are rapidly being turned into indoctrination centers and prison camps.  Our children desperately need to focus on the basics such as reading, writing and math, but instead a whole host of politicians, “education officials” and teachers are constantly injecting as much propaganda as they possibly can into classroom instruction.  Instead of learning how to think, our children are continually being told what to think.  Not only that, our children are also being trained how to live as subservient slaves in a Big Brother police state.  Today, nearly everything that children do in public schools is watched, monitored, recorded and tracked.  Independent thought and free expression are greatly discouraged and are often cracked down upon harshly.  If students get “out of line”, instead of being sent to see the principal they are often handcuffed, arrested and taken to the police station.  In addition, law enforcement authorities are using weapons such as pepper spray and tasers against young students in our public schools more than ever before.  Children in U.S. public schools are not learning how to live as strong individuals in the “land of the free and the home of the brave”.  Rather, they are being trained how to serve a Big Brother police state where control freaks run their entire lives.  If we continue to allow all of the liberty and freedom to be systematically drained out of our school children, then there is not going to be much hope for the future of this nation.

The following are 28 signs that U.S public schools are being turned into indoctrination centers and prison camps….

#1 All 50 U.S. states are now constructing federally-mandated databases that will track the behavior and performance of all public school students in America throughout their entire school careers.  According to the New York Post, the Obama administration wants to use the information that is gathered for a wide array of purposes….

The administration wants this data to include much more than name, address and test scores. According to the National Data Collection Model, the government should collect information on health-care history, family income and family voting status. In its view, public schools offer a golden opportunity to mine reams of data from a captive audience.

#2 All over America, school children are being immersed in the radical green agenda.  In fact, in many areas of the country children are actively trained to watch how their parents behave and to correct them when they are being “environmentally unfriendly”.  The following is from a recent New York Times article about this phenomenon….

“I have very, very environmentally conscious children — more so than me, I’m embarrassed to say,” said Ms. Ross, a social worker in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y. “They’re on my case about getting a hybrid car. They want me to replace all the light bulbs in the house with energy-saving bulbs.”

Ms. Ross’s children are part of what experts say is a growing army of “eco-kids” — steeped in environmentalism at school, in houses of worship, through scouting and even via popular culture — who try to hold their parents accountable at home. Amid their pride in their children’s zeal for all things green, the grown-ups sometimes end up feeling like scofflaws under the watchful eye of the pint-size eco-police, whose demands grow ever greater, and more expensive.

Later on in that same article, a district superintendent is quoted as saying that they try to inject the green agenda wherever they can into the curriculum….

“We’re trying to integrate it into anything where it naturally fits,” said Jackie Taylor, the district’s superintendent. “It might be in a math lesson. How much water are you really using? How can you tell? Teachers look for avenues in almost everything they teach.”

#3 One 13-year-old student down in New Mexico was recently handcuffed and forcibly removed from a classroom just because he burped in class.  In all, over 200 students in Bernalillo County “have been handcuffed and arrested in the last three years for non-violent misdemeanors”.

#4 All over America, students are being taught that the First Amendment does not apply in public schools.  Expressions of free speech in school are often cracked down upon very hard.  For example, one group of high school athletes was recently suspended for “Tebowing” in the hallways of their school.

#5 Many public school sex education classes have totally crossed the line.  Instead of just “educating” children about sex, many sex ed courses are now “indoctrinating” children about sex.  One recent example of this was detailed in the New York Times….

IMAGINE you have a 10- or 11-year-old child, just entering a public middle school. How would you feel if, as part of a class ostensibly about the risk of sexually transmitted diseases, he and his classmates were given “risk cards” that graphically named a variety of solitary and mutual sex acts? Or if, in another lesson, he was encouraged to disregard what you told him about sex, and to rely instead on teachers and health clinic staff members?

That prospect would horrify most parents. But such lessons are part of a middle-school curriculum that Dennis M. Walcott, the New York City schools chancellor, has recommended for his system’s newly mandated sex-education classes. There is a parental “opt out,” but it is very limited, covering classes on contraception and birth control.

#6 Sadly, this “sexual indoctrination” appears to be working.  According to one recent study, sexual conduct between teen girls in the United States is now at the highest level ever recorded.

#7 Putting kids in jail has become standard operating procedure in the United States.  Today, nearly one-third of all Americans are arrested by police by the time they reach the age of 23.  At this point, the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world and the largest total prison population on the entire globe, and yet our society just continues to become more unstable.

#8 In some U.S. schools, RFID chips are now being used to monitor the attendance and movements of children while they are at school.  The following is how one article recently described a program that has just been instituted at a preschool in California….

Upon arriving in the morning, according to the Associated Press, each student at the CCC-George Miller preschool will don a jersey with a stitched in RFID chip. As the kids go about the business of learning, sensors in the school will record their movements, collecting attendance for both classes and meals. Officials from the school have claimed they’re only recording information they’re required to provide while receiving  federal funds for their Headstart program.

#9 Increasingly, incidents of misbehavior at many U.S. schools are being treated as very serious crimes.  For example, when a little girl kissed a little boy at one Florida elementary school recently, it was considered to be a “possible sex crime” and the police were called out.

#10 Even 5-year-old children are now being handcuffed and arrested by police in public schools.  The following is from a recent article that described what happened to one very young student in Stockton, California earlier this year….

Earlier this year, a Stockton student was handcuffed with zip ties on his hands and feet, forced to go to the hospital for a psychiatric evaluation and was charged with battery on a police officer. That student was 5 years old.

#11 A teenager in suburban Dallas was recently forced to take on a part-time job after being ticketed for using bad language in one high school classroom.  The original ticket was for $340, but additional fees have raised the total bill to $637.

#12 It is not just high school kids that are being ticketed by police.  In Texas the crackdown extends all the way down to elementary school students.  In fact, it has been reported that Texas police gave “1,000 tickets” to elementary school kids over a recent six year period.

#13 Our children are being programmed to accept the fact that they will be watched and monitored constantly.  For example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is spending large amounts of money to install surveillance cameras in the cafeterias of public schools all across the nation so that government control freaks can closely monitor what our children are eating.

#14 If you can believe it, a “certified TSA official” was recently brought in to oversee student searches at the Santa Fe High School prom.

#15 Last year, a 17 year-old honor student in North Carolina named Ashley Smithwick accidentally took her father’s lunch with her to school.  It contained a small paring knife which he would use to slice up apples.  So what happened to this standout student when the school discovered this?  The school suspended her for the rest of the year and the police charged her with a misdemeanor.

#16 According to blogger Alexander Higgins, students in kindergarten and the 1st grade in the state of New Jersey are now required by law to participate “in monthly anti-terrorism drills”.  The following is an excerpt from a letter that he recently received from the school where his child attends….

Each month a school must conduct one fire drill and one security drill which may be a lockdown, bomb threat, evacuation, active shooter, or shelter-in place drill. All schools are now required by law to implement this procedure.

So who in the world ever decided that it would be a good idea for 1st grade students to endure “lockdown” and “active shooter” drills?  To get an idea of what these kinds of drills are like, just check out this video.

#17 In some U.S. schools, armed cops accompanied by police dogs actually conduct surprise raids with their guns drawn.  In this video, you can actually see police officers aiming their guns at school children as the students are lined up facing the wall.

#18 The U.S. government is now encouraging children to spy on their parents as part of the “war on terror”.  If a school official hears that a parent has said the “wrong thing” at home, that parent could potentially get labeled as a “potential terrorist”.

#19 The U.S. government has also been increasingly using “polls” and “surveys” as tools to gather information about all of us.  In previous articles, I have noted how government authorities seems particularly interested in our children.  According to Mike Adams of Natural News, the CDC is starting to call parents all over the U.S. to question them about the vaccination status of their children….

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control, which has been comprehensively exposed as a vaccine propaganda organization promoting the interests of drug companies, is now engaged in a household surveillance program that involves calling U.S. households and intimidating parents into producing child immunization records. As part of what it deems a National Immunization Survey(NIS), the CDC is sending letters to U.S. households, alerting them that they will be called by “NORC at the University of Chicago” and that households should “have your child’s immunization records handy when answering our questions.”

You can see a copy of the letter that the CDC has been sending out to selected parents right here.

#20 Last year, a high school student in Southern California was suspended for two days because he had private conversations with his classmates during which he discussed Christianity.  He was also banned from bringing his Bible to school ever again.

#21 In early 2010, a 12 year old girl in New York was arrested by police and marched out of her school in handcuffs just because she doodled on her desk. “I love my friends Abby and Faith” was what she reportedly wrote on her desk.

#22 Back in 2009, one 8 year old boy in Massachusetts was sent home from school and was forced to undergo a psychological evaluation because he drew a picture of Jesus on the cross.

#23 A little over a year ago, a 6 year old girl in Florida was handcuffed and sent to a mental facility after throwing temper tantrums at her elementary school.

#24 Other students in Florida have actually been arrested for bringing a plastic butter knife to school, for throwing an eraser, and for drawing a picture of a gun.

#25 Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has announced that school officials can search the cell phones and laptops of public school students if there are “reasonable grounds for suspecting that the search will turn up evidence that the student has violated or is violating either the law or the rules of the school.”

#26 Increasingly, authorities are using “pre-crime” technology on our children in order to identify potential problem individuals.  For example, the Florida State Department of Juvenile Justice has announced that it will begin using analysis software to predict crime by young delinquents and will place “potential offenders” in specific prevention and education programs.

#27 At one public high school in McAllen, Texas earlier this year, students were ordered to stand up and recite the Mexican national anthem and Mexican pledge of allegiance.  School authorities have failed to explain how reciting a pledge of allegiance to a foreign nation has any educational value whatsoever.

#28 All over the United States, tasers are increasingly being used to “subdue” high school students.  The following are two very shocking examples of this that were cited in a recent Alternet article….

On September 29, Keshana Wilson, 14, was shocked in the groin with a Taser while shoved against a parked car by Allentown, Pennsylvania police officer Jason Ammary, just outside her high school. The incident was captured on surveillance footage. Allentown police argue that the officer’s behavior was justified because “Wilson was cursing and inciting a group of people” as well as resisting arrest. While defending his fellow officer, Allentown Assistant Police Chief Joseph Hanna argued, “officers are trained to use the justified amount of force dictated by the actions of the resister, not their age or gender.”

Zahrod Jackson, a 17-year-old student, “was eligible to receive free lunch” at Middletown High School in Connecticut, according to a June report in the Middletown Press. Last September, Jackson exited the cafeteria line with a slice of pizza, but returned for a beef patty after spotting both pizza and a beef patty on the tray of a student who also receives free lunch. A screaming match ensued between Jackson and a cafeteria worker who accused the teen of stealing. The commotion quickly caught the eyes of SROs Kurt Scrivo, who “threw Jackson onto the cafeteria floor,” and Alex Rodriguez, who Tasered him five times.

So is all of this brutal repression helping our children get a better education?

Of course not.

The truth is that the American population is rapidly being “dumbed-down”.

Today, American 15-year-olds do not even rank in the top half of all advanced nations when it comes to math or science literacy.

Not only that, our public schools are also producing kids that are woefully unprepared for college.  The United States once had the highest proportion of young adults with post-secondary degrees in the world.  Today, the U.S. has fallen to 12th.

Our public education system absolutely stinks and it is getting worse all the time.

I went to public schools all of my life, but I would never want to send my children to public schools now.  They are going downhill really, really fast.

Just sending different politicians to Washington D.C. is not going to change the course of this nation.  We need a complete political, economic, educational, moral, spiritual and philosophical renewal.  Right now America is becoming a little more like North Korea every day.  If we continue on this path there will be absolutely no future for our children and our grandchildren.

It is absolutely disgusting that our public schools are being transformed into indoctrination centers and prison camps.  This is not what America is supposed to be about.

If we do not choose to stand up and fight for the future of this country, then we are going to get the future that we deserve.

Originally published at

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The Assumption of Ignorance

Written by Dale Stephens.

When I was sixteen, I lived in France for four months in a tiny village north of Paris. The experience was fantastic, albeit isolated, and I returned to America speaking French. But learning a new language was just one outcome of my time abroad. The greatest learning came from observing cultural differences.

Like many northern Europeans who head south for the summer, my French family vacationed in the Alps every August. One day we ventured into Switzerland to hike along a river gorge.

The path was all but unmarked. This surprised me. As an American, I am accustomed to bright signs warning of impending danger. The gorge we were hiking along was more than 100 feet deep and filled with water from a glacier. Slipping into the freezing water would almost certainly mean death.

At the end of our uneventful hike, as we were loading up the car, I noticed a small sign that said (in English, French, and German), “In case you weren’t aware, the water in the canyon flows from a glacier. The temperature of the water is below freezing and will cause hypothermia if you fall into the river”

In America, this small, unobtrusive sign would have been instead presented with block red letters that spell D-A-N-G-E-R.

This assumption of ignorance is what is setting us back. In Switzerland the assumption is that people know submersion in cold water will cause hypothermia and eventual death. In America the assumption is that you’ll slip into the gorge and fall to your death if we don’t make that danger explicit.

Assuming that the world is ignorant brings society down. We’ve begun talking, teaching, and working to the lowest common denominator. We assume that people need to be taught, led, coddled, and motivated.

When you presume that other people are ignorant, you do both yourself and them a disservice. You create more work for yourself and increase the dependency of others on you. You become the hub at the center of a wheel, and the spokes don’t know how to think independently because they’ve been brought up in a system where there is always someone else telling them what they need to know.

This is the mindset of people as they leave school. Students are told there is one right answer in the back of the book. In the real world, there are no textbooks and there are no right answers.

On the contrary, assuming that the world is knowledgeable elevates society. You speak freely, and people learn to ask questions when they don’t understand. You strive to support the highest achievers and bring everyone else up to their level of comprehension. When you presume that the people around you are intelligent and capable human beings, you increase hope. Because others are respected and treated as equal, they are empowered to forge their own paths, do what they love, and define success for themselves.

None of this requires dropping out of school or moving to a different country. When you assume that the people around you—your parents, your friends, the barista who always remembers to add extra whipped cream, the check out clerk at Walgreens—are knowledgeable, you’ll be surprised how much you can learn from the world.

Originally published at

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Child Labor In School And Out

Written by Brian Anderson.

The other day I began reading Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs. Though I’m a bit turned off by some aspects of Jobs’s personality, I’m fascinated by the entrepreneurial eagerness that seemed to fill his brain from an early childhood.

Looking back, many other industry titans, including Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates, also had jobs when they were young; their intuition wasn’t limited to the classroom.

Zuckerberg developed Synapse Media Player during high school. Gates wrote a computerized program for scheduling classes at the Lakeside School when he was 16. And, at the same age, Jobs (with Steve Wozniak) created and sold blue boxes.

Even Andrew Carnegie networked as a telegraph messenger at the age of 15.

If more children were given the chance to develop skills in which they’re interested over and against the dictates of school board bureaucrats, our economy would produce even more CEOs. Yet, instead, they’re trapped inside jail-like classrooms for the entire day, 5 days a week.

H. L. Mencken described schools in the following way:

School-days, I believe, are the unhappiest in the whole span of human existence. They are full of dull, unintelligible tasks, new and unpleasant ordinances, brutal violations of common sense and common decency. It doesn’t take a reasonably bright boy long to discover that most of what is rammed into him is nonsense, and that no one really cares very much whether he learns it or not.

I’ve written before — a history explained in great detail by people like John Taylor Gatto — that the original intent of public school in the United States was to purposefully suppress this adventurous, outside-of-the-box thinking and to, in exchange, teach obedience to an abstract collective. It’s no surprise the results are disastrous.

Now we have an extremely successful businessman who also despises America’s inefficient school system. Peter Thiel, the brilliant man who cofounded PayPal and was an important investor in Facebook’s youth, is also an avowed libertarian. Earlier this year, the Thiel Foundation announced the winners of an exclusive fellowship that pays teenagers to opt out of school in order to work on their new ideas. They’re offering the same opportunity next year, too; the application for it is due on December 31.

One of Thiel’s winners in 2011 is a girl named Laura Deming. According to her profile, she began working in a biogerontology lab when she was 12 and matriculated at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology when she was 14. Laura is now 17 years old and remains extremely optimistic about her ability to one day extend the human lifespan, a rare topic detailed by researcher Aubrey de Grey. Thanks to Thiel’s financing—a paradigm Deming also hopes to change—her new company is currently in the works.

What if these young people hadn’t had the opportunity to leave school? What if they were forced to fit through mind-draining lectures until the age of 18 like “normal” kids? What if they weren’t given a chance to reach their intentions outside of the classroom?

Government advocates have long sought to implement stricter legislation against children working in the private sector. When coupled with compulsory attendance mandates for students, this leaves no room for kids’ creativity to roam freely.

As Einstein said, “It is, in fact, nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry.”

These entrepreneurs aren’t what most people think about when they hear the term “child labor,” despite that they fit the official definition.

The vision of 19th-century factories filled with little kids mixing mortar disregards nearly 200 years of technological advancement and capital acquisition, two highly important steps in relieving young workers. To say that labor laws are responsible for saving us from that situation is almost like saying that, without the Food and Drug Administration, our medicines would still consist of opium- and cocaine-centered elixirs.

The assumption that we got rid of child labor through legislation is a myth. Children were leaving the workplace even a century before the Fair Labor Standards Act was passed.

Clark Nardinelli, an economist for the USFDA, explained this observation pattern in a paper entitled “Child Labor and the Factory Acts.” He writes,

It is clear that children under ten were a negligible part of the [1830s] work force in every textile industry but silk, which was exempt from the minimum wage provision. Most of the children to whom the law applied were ten, eleven, or twelve years old.

There were also “educational clauses” thrown into the Factory Acts, which attempted to force children into schools. Yet there was no evident increase in literacy rates within the affected post-1835 districts, two years after the legislation was enacted.

Nardinelli adds,

Technological change in general tended to reduce the relative demand for child labor. […] Older teenagers could take the place of adults, but children under fourteen were complements to adult workers, not substitutes. Even when machinery became easier to operate, eleven year old workers did not take over the machines. Instead, children preformed secondary tasks, picking up waste cotton, running errands, and generally assisting older workers. Their most important task was piecing together broken threads. As technological change led to improved machines there was less waste and fewer broken threads. Better organized factories required fewer secondary workers and the relative demand for child labor decreased.

This is where we once again observe the phenomenon of child labor disappearing in factories that are able to acquire sufficient capital. This is why younger workers are found in most third-world countries, where the children just have no better option.

Colombia’s economy, for example, has been ravaged by political corruption and the increasingly-militarized drug war, so it comes as no surprise that the country’s child labor rate has drastically elevated during the decade. Reformers like Camilo Dominguez insist that, since Colombia’s unemployment rate is above 10 percent, there is no reason that children should be working.

“It must be a priority in this country to restore the rights of these children immediately and mobilize ourselves to discourage our society from allowing them to continue working,” Dominguez said.

While it makes sense to desire a lower unemployment rate and a strong workforce without involving child labor, reformers fail to realize these children aren’t stealing adults’ jobs. It’s simple: companies hire children when they can’t afford adults. If Colombia decides to pass strict legislation against young workers, the job opportunities once occupied by them will no longer be available to anyone at all. They won’t exist.

If the Colombian government passes strict child-labor laws, they will push children away from services and industry into business sectors that tend to have less oversight. In Colombia, this commonly means mining and agriculture.

Why force the children into roles that they would enjoy even less?

One UNICEF report discusses the setbacks to Bangladesh’s economy after the Child Labor Deterrence Act (introduced by US Senator Tom Harkin) was passed in the 1990s. Its purpose was to set up a tariff against foreign goods manufactured by child laborers, which resulted in the dismissal of 75 percent of children working in the country’s coveted garment industry.

As a result, the children ended up working “primitive roles” that included life-threatening gigs from street hustling to child prostitution, the latter of which, especially for young girls, usually devolved into a forced occupation. Many couldn’t even find these dangerous jobs, though, so “the mothers of dismissed children had to leave their jobs in order to look after their children.” This meant, as a result of not-so-noble American legislation, that two people in many families were forced out of the workplace.

As families accumulate capital, it’s easier to take leisure time, and that is the mechanism that allows children to attend better schools, get a nicer jobs, and do anything else they desire. It’s why many writers in the olden days praised new factories that were willing to employ women and children.

Another Argument Against Legislation Against Child Labor

The ethical argument, so to speak, against government interference is that child labor legislation makes it illegal for children to voluntarily work. Even if the legislation worked wonders for unemployment rates and got every child out of factory work, let’s face the fact that many kids just aren’t fit for traditional public school. The lives of Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, and others suggest that this may be a good sign.

The system is failing in the first place, so why not allow children to get a hands-on education in other respectable fields? The Fair Labor Standards Act admittedly makes a few exceptions, but bureaucrats in D.C. shouldn’t have the power to choose how children live their lives.

Young individuals become adults when they decide to take full control of their own bodies — not when they hit an arbitrary age — at which point they can form these voluntary business relationships without outside interference. Is it not deplorable that governments force students to go to school?

Public school is child exploitation at its best.

When discussing these concepts with people, let’s also make sure to take note of the huge difference between allowing children to voluntarily work for money and forcing them to work for little to no compensation. Many kids just want to make a little extra cash during the summer, much like the 7-year old girl who opened a lemonade stand last year (only to have it shut down by regulators for failing to purchase a $120 temporary license).

Then again, as Jeffrey Tucker points out, “there is one final exemption, as incredible as this may be: federal law allows states to allow kids to work for a state or local government at any age, and there are no hourly restrictions.”

God bless everyone who wants to make sure that the children of our world aren’t exploited. My heart is with you by all means. But, if you promote child-labor laws, you’re going at it the wrong way and may very well leave poor communities worse off than before.

Let kids choose, and let parents protect. Government agencies will bend to politics. Families will not.

Originally published at

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Prisms & Paradoxes

Written by Chase (in Florida).

Unschooling for me conjures up prisms, paradoxes, and unlimited travel. Time well spent and freedom. The “un” in life. Have you ever stood at a window and looked at something happening on the other side? Have you ever thought that it looked inviting and fun? And yet at the same time, you know you cannot enter. You cannot get to the other side.

That is school. A place where you are shut up and can only see the world through a dark, twisted, distorted, and foggy window. And your world, your life, is being caged within four walls where it is desperately cold. And you wish you could get outside.

When you were little, perhaps you dreamed of being with fairies or witches, or with leprechauns and finding gold at the end of the rainbow. And you believed that it was possible to dance and sing with them—you just weren’t ever at the right place or time. Or perhaps you were, perhaps you were lucky and you did get to dance and sing, and you did get a taste of that life.

But now you are still desperately trying to look out that twisted window to watch the comings and goings of the world outside. Maybe someday you decide to follow a new passage, and maybe you haven’t lost all your curiosity about the world. You steer off the chosen path, a different hallway, a light at the end of the tunnel, a way out. But the journey there is not easy. The land beyond may be fruitful and ripe for the picking, but getting there is not easy. You discover that, unlike when you were in that confined world, here you must journey, and it is the journey that matters, not so much the end result. Before, you just went from one place to another without really thinking about where you were going or why. It was easier not to think and just to follow.

But you have chosen this new path, and though it is hard at first, it does get better, and you know somewhere within you that tomorrow will be better than today. You have started on a path that will take you to endless possibilities, and who knows where you will end up? As you travel, you meet countless people—some like yourself who are free and some who are still standing behind that invisible glass. For that is all the warped and twisted window was; it never really existed.

You were just told that it was there. You believed that it was there and never questioned otherwise. And to you, the people standing in the invisible boxes, behind those invisible, non-existent windows seem terribly silly. And yet you remember how easy it is to believe, how it was not so long ago that you were just like them, and you feel sorry that they haven’t found the light.

But you have chosen a better path, a path for the picking. Though it will not always be the easiest, smoothest path, it is the path you chose; no one else chose it for you. Ahead of you lie countless hills, bends and turns in the road, paradoxes and possibilities. You are one of those they call unschoolers, and you are free!

Excerpted from The Unschooling Handbook by Mary Griffith.

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