Blake Peebles is a high school sophomore who wakes up at noon, does a few hours of school work, and then practices Guitar Hero for 10 hours. Are his parents crazy?
Maybe they are, but consider this: since replacing eight hours of high school each day with three hours of home-school and tutors, Blake now tests at a 12th-grade level, he socializes more often and has more friends, according to an article in the May issue of American Way Magazine. He is also absorbed in mastering computer gaming, one of the fastest growing fields in our economy.
It was not an easy decision for his parents to let Blake leave high school and it continues to be a hard choice. They are attacked by critics —most of whom they’ve never met. If the Peebles had taken the expected path and insisted that their son stay in school, no one would be giving them flack – even if their son was bored, depressed or learning less. Many would tell them they were doing the right thing.Yet, today Blake is absorbed for most of his waking hours in something that creates flow for him – a path to well-being that the majority of high school students do not achieve in class, according to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.
Not only that, but Blake has rid himself of the stress he felt in a public high school that was not designed to bring out the best in him. He is learning, he is engaged in flow, and he is happy.
I admire the Peebles’ courageous decision. They listened to their child’s needs and they were willing to take a risk in the hope of improving his well-being. Their choice is not one that many would make, but it has proven to be a good one for Blake.
Csikszentmihalyi, M. “Flow” and mihaly csikszentmihalyi – education – austega. Retrieved 6/30/2007 from http://www.austega.com/education/articles/flow.htm
American Way Cover
I am sure this will be the most debated PPDaily article yet.
School should be a drudge; the amount of paper shuffling, if nothing else, is staggering. That is what we are learning there … how to push ourselves through the inevitable drudgery (along with socialization and a minimum of the three Rs, in that order). I don’t think the answer is guitar hero nor public school. Perhaps a GED and college? The sooner this young man gets through the boring history, math and English pre-reqs, the sooner he can take classes in graphic user interface and game design.
What he needs is a challenge.
Thank you for this interesting article on a subject that often families face. Do we help the student who is failing to “push through” in their present environment if they are failing or do we provide an alternative learning environment. It is really about how we can help students and all people to identify and use their strengths, as Drs. Martin Seligman and Chris Peterson point out, rather than just trying to shore up their weaknesses. However, because society often requires abilities to adapt to structured situations and also to interact appropriately and constructively with others in a social environment, hopefully these skills can also be taught in whatever learning environment is chosen for a student. I hope others will post their comments to this interesting subject.
Very interesting and thought-provoking article, Christine. You bring up a very important point. From high school to bureaucracies, we often find ourselves pushing through boring, mind-numbing, standardized procedures because they are widely-available, easy to control and we know what to expect. It’s like fast food for the brain – it fills you up, but it offers next to zero nutrients. Not so good when we are looking for creativity, character, engagement and innovation. And really, is that what we want for ourselves and future generations? Surely it’s time we start thinking of better ways. Thank you for this contribution.
Wouldn’t it be better if he was creating a better version of Guitar Hero for 10 hours? Or his own computer game? Simply completing a ‘fill in the blanks’ task (which is essentially what guitar hero is) Blake is operating at the bottom level of Bloom’s taxonomy. Sure, he should be able to learn using his strengths and skills, but I’m not convinced that doing something you can already do for 10 hours a day is it. There’s years for that later, in working life.
I just listened to a This American Life which interviewed a mother and her adult children who had dropped out of school and run away from home when they were in their early teens. The mother really wanted to hear the kids say they had made a mistake and that growing up without their mother had a negative impact. But the kids felt like they had learned so much and that the experiences they had had shaped the adults they later became. Granted, this may not be the same as staring at a computer screen for ten hours a day but I think the point is society thinks there is only one pathway to a “successful” life and all evidence shows quite the opposite. What a fascinating and thought provoking article! p.s. Maybe I should stop resisting the urge to go out and buy guitar hero.
Jonathan, thanks for your insights and comments! I agree he needs a challenge — and thanks for your points about the drudgery and the need for choices beyond guitar hero and high school.
Lynn, thanks for your comments about alternative learning environments and about kids’ strengths. I agree that we need to find better ways to help kids who don’t fit. Another interesting aspect of this, for me, is the fact that it is their very gifts (and some strengths too) that can prevent the kids from fitting into the school mold.
Hi Marie-Jo, thanks for the “fast food” analogy! I hadn’t thought about work or school this way, but you make a great point about busy emptyness. I agree we need to use better approaches in both school and work. Thanks for your insightful comments.
Laura, you make a great point about creating his own computer game or finding something more creative and challenging and I hope he will move on to something where he can more fully draw on his own resources. In the meantime, this seems to be a positive shift for him and I hope he will build on that momentum.
Jeremy, I agree wholeheartedly with your point on more than one “path to success” in life! Thanks, too, for telling us about the This American Life interview– I’m going to listen to the segment you mentioned. I appreciate your insight on the fact that we adults so often think we know what’s best for the teens in our lives — and they frequently show us that we are wrong.
And yes, I think you should stop resisting and go get Guitar Hero (of course I’ve never played it — but if you think you’d enjoy it, why not?!?)