Re: [Discuss-sudbury-model] video gaming @ school?

From: Scott David Gray <>
Date: Tue Aug 29 16:34:00 2006

Hi Rosetta,
     Welcome to the list.
     Most Sudbury Model Schools do, indeed, allow video gaming. The
topic of free access to media (which includes discussion about
television) comes up very frequently on this list. It is probably the
single most frequently recurring subject.
     I'd suggest a perusal of the discuss-sudbury-model archives, to
read some of the thoughts exchanged in the past on this, for those who
are interested. I'll also reprise an answer I've given before, but you
can find plenty about video gaming and television at SVS in the dsm

  I've been reading this thread with interest, and growing concern.
People are talking up all the traditional skills that can be learned
by playing arcade games, as though that is the _reason_ why arcade
games should be allowed.

  Maybe I'm just a bit defensive because I happen to love playing all
sorts of games, including arcade games. But I worry a bit when people
look for a "rationale" for playing any sort of game.
  Once in a while, these lines of reasoning might be right -- a person
might either gain a sense of how to master something, or pick up a
skill that is analogous to a skill that the person "really" needs. But
frankly, I don't think that's always the case.

  Most of the elaborate explanations that have been given are
effectively "just so" stories to help convince people who are innately
_opposed_ to game playing that playing games is OK. The argument boils
down to "playing games is _really_ about developing career skills
rather than the game itself, and so the game is good despite your
initial reaction."
  I can point to many many hours of my own game play that (as near as
I know) have contributed nothing to any of my particular set of
"survival" or "career" skills, just as I can point to many hours of
reading that have only satisfied curiosity and/or passion on my part
but have never been relevant to any "need." Yet, I would not trade
that time for anything "more effective" -- games and literature and
leisure are _reasons_ for living as far as I am concerned, and that is
far more important than being a _means_ of survival.
  I guess I find play to _be_ a valid end in itself. I don't need to
prove that I can get some long term benefit from any given activity in
order to say "that is an activity that I want to do, and hence is a
valid activity."

  This is not to diminish the points that one can learn an awful lot
at play, that most significant learning comes from play, or that some
things can _best_ be learned at play.
  But those arguments scare me a little bit, particularly when
delivered with the intensity that I have heard in this discussion.
These arguments suggest that the person thinks play _needs_ to be
justified. As near as I can tell, play is integral to personal
fulfilment -- and I see no need to prove a material benefit when
arguing that there is nothing wrong with children playing arcade

  It seems to me that people have to take the bull by the horns and
ask themselves "what is a good life?" before treating the question of
play (including arcade games) seriously.
  Only then will the value of letting people do what they want truly
be realized. While the educationists think that we are arguing for the
exact same goals as them (an adult with a pre-determined set of
"important" opinions and skills) they will always be able to answer
"well, ok we'll engineer the perfect person by allowing _those_ games
for x hours per day and _those_ games for y." And this, of course,
_kills_ the real value of game play -- freedom to experiment for _no_
reason and with no end in mind.

     I'll also add, just by way of footnote, that enjoying media with
a group is an activity that many people who are innately troubled by
video games may feel better about. The social interaction, and the
shared response to the media becomes a key part of the activity. Think
about the difference between reading, playing a game, or watching a
movie on your own, and having a book club, an outing at the movies, or
a social game. The media enjoyed at SVS is usually enjoyed with a
group. While I, personally, think that time with media on one's own is
wholly reasonable and healthy, even those who disagree will usually
note that media as a social activity is a different beast.

     Further reading suggested: Killing Monsters by Gerard Jones.

On 8/29/06, rosetta star <> wrote:
> hello I'm new to discussion groups and sudbury model schools. i am enrolling
> my 8 year old son in a new school in asheville NC. The school allows video
> gaming and it is my only concern. i allow him to play these games but free
> gaming all day seems like the equivalent of offering chocolate bars as a
> dinner option. is freedom to "game" typical at other sudbury model schools?
> is it a hot topic? how do others handle this one? any advice? thanks rosetta
> star

-- Scott David Gray
Received on Tue Aug 29 2006 - 16:33:54 EDT

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