Beacon Press: In Defense of Childhood
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In Defense of Childhood

Protecting Kids' Inner Wildness

Author: Chris Mercogliano

A passionate essay by a maverick educator on the need to protect the unique spark the “inner wildness“ that animates every child

As codirector of the Albany Free School, Chris Mercogliano has had remarkable success in helping a diverse population of youngsters find their way in the world. He regrets, however, that most kids’ lives are subject to some form of control from dawn until dusk. Lamenting risk-averse parents, overstructured school days, and a lack of playtime and solitude, Mercogliano argues that we are robbing our young people of “that precious, irreplaceable period in their lives that nature has set aside for exploration and innocent discovery,” leaving them ill-equipped to face adulthood. The “domestication of childhood” squeezes the adventure out of kids’ lives and threatens to smother the spark that animates each child with talents, dreams, and inclinations.

There is plenty that those involved with children can do to protect their spontaneity and exuberance. We can address their desperate thirst for knowledge, give them space to learn from their mistakes, and let them explore what their place in the adult world might be.
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“Mercogliano is, in effect, a cultural therapist who accurately diagnoses and attentively ponders America’s loss of childhood, offering fresh new ideas and creative solutions. Ultimately, he is what all good therapists are: a purveyor of hope. No one appreciates his message more than I, who grew up in the 1950s in rural Nebraska. He will help us care for our most valuable resource:children.” —Mary Pipher, author of Writing to Change the World

“With deep insight, Mercogliano shows how our society is suppressing children’s creative energies. But he also brings a positive message, showing how we can help young people break through conventional restraints and pursue their passions. This is a beautiful, searching, and inspiring book.” —William Crain, Professor of Psychology, The City College of New York, and author of Reclaiming Childhood: Letting Children Be Children in Our Achievement-Oriented Society

“Chris Mercogliano’s provocative meditation on childhood sets up a dialectic among maple-sugaring, swan-diving in forest pools, shooting slingshots, and adventuring on the one hand, and the adult-supervised ‘play’ of the Little League, the Boy Scouts, the YMCA, and the Playground Movement on the other. Along the way are insights about the functions of solitude and self-organization that lead the reader to conclude: no self-organization means that no self worthy of the name will emerge. A very strong and attractive book.” —John Taylor Gatto, author of Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling


Review: Publisher’s Weekly - September 21, 2007
“Mercogliano's book, full of insight, enthusiasm and hope, is as readable and practical as it is illuminating.”
Review: Library Journal - May 15, 2007
“Recommended for academic libraries and large child development collections in public libraries.”

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In Defense of Childhood

ISBN: 978-080703286-2
Publication Date: 8/1/2007
Pages: 224
Size:5.5 x 8.5 Inches (US)
Price:  $24.95
Format: Cloth
Availability: In stock.
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