Wednesday, March 14, 2018

British educators re-introduce "risk" into schools to build student resilience and grit

A story in the New York Times reports that British educators are concerned that schools have gone too far in terms of  eliminating physical risks at the expense of building student resilience and grit. As a result, there's a new movement afoot to re-introduce activities that can help "toughen up" students so they are better able to deal with the hazards of life.  Thus, some school administrators are saying bring on the knives, running with scissors, hammers, saws and even fire.  One school has even posted a placard informing parents that "risks have been intentionally [introduced into the school environment], so that your child can develop an appreciation of risk in a controlled play environment . . . ."

Among other things, it raises the question of whether legal educators have made a similar mistake in their efforts to minimize stress in law school at the expense of helping to adequately prepare students for the multitude of stresses they'll face in practice - which can be substantial. 

Here's an excerpt from the NYT article and you can decide whether the pendulum has swung too far in the direction of risk aversion in the law school context as well: 

In Britain’s Playgrounds, ‘Bringing in Risk’ to Build Resilience

SHOEBURYNESS, England — Educators in Britain, after decades spent in a collective effort to minimize risk, are now, cautiously, getting into the business of providing it. 


Four years ago, for instance, teachers at the Richmond Avenue Primary and Nursery School looked critically around their campus and set about, as one of them put it, “bringing in risk.”


Out went the plastic playhouses and in came the dicey stuff: stacks of two-by-fours, crates and loose bricks. The schoolyard got a mud pit, a tire swing, log stumps and workbenches with hammers and saws.


“We thought, how can we bring that element of risk into your everyday environment?” said Leah Morris, who manages the early years program at the school in Shoeburyness in southeast Britain. “We were looking at, O.K., so we’ve got a sand pit, what can we add to the sand pit to make it more risky?”


Now, Ms. Morris says proudly, “we have fires, we use knives, saws, different tools,” all used under adult supervision. Indoors, scissors abound, and so do sharp-edged tape dispensers (“they normally only cut themselves once,” she says).


Limited risks are increasingly cast by experts as an experience essential to childhood development, useful in building resilience and grit.

. . . .


This view is tinged with nostalgia for an earlier Britain, in which children were tougher and more self-reliant. It resonates both with right-wing tabloids, which see it as a corrective to the cosseting of a liberal nanny state; and with progressives, drawn to a freer and more natural childhood. It is also supported by a growing list of government officials, among them Amanda Spielman, the chief inspector of Ofsted, the powerful agency that inspects British schools.


Ms. Spielman has poked fun at schools for what she considers excessive risk aversion, describing as “simply barmy” measures like sending schoolchildren out on city field trips in high-visibility jackets. Late last year, she announced that her agency’s inspectors would undergo training that will encompass the positive, as well as the negative, side of risk.

. . . .

 Continue reading here.


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