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New Zealand Schools Find Less Structure Improves Children's Behavior 127

First time accepted submitter geminidomino writes "A research project involving eight schools in Dunedin and Auckland report that loosening rules on the playground may lead to fewer incidents of bullying, vandalism, and injury. One principal opines, 'The kids were motivated, busy and engaged. In my experience, the time children get into trouble is when they are not busy, motivated and engaged. It's during that time they bully other kids, graffiti or wreck things around the school.' As one might expect, the article states that there was a lot of resistance to the project, and I'm kind of surprised they got as many administrators to sign on as they did. The story may be premature, as the article states that 'the results of the study will be collated this year,' but it may be interesting to see how the numbers shake out."
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New Zealand Schools Find Less Structure Improves Children's Behavior

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  • by phantomfive (622387) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @11:39AM (#46091467) Journal
    I can tell you from experience that 'lack of rules' does not prevent bullying.

    And that's not what happened here either, from the story. They gave the kids toys, which kept them occupied. That's what happened. Some of the toys were slightly dangerous (like trees for climbing, one example), and that's why they called it 'getting rid of rules.'
  • 20 years from now. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @11:40AM (#46091475)

    Instead of a playground, children used their imagination to play in a "loose parts pit" which contained junk such as wood, tyres and an old fire hose.

    New Zealand's incredibly innovative and creative economy has allowed their populace to experience the highest living standard the World has ever known, followed by Finland's.

    The United States, who once held that title, is currently revamping their "No Child Left Behind" program and is currently changing their CS classes for the latest computer language and technologies in order to be competitive with the rest of the World in doing New Zealand's grunt programming work.

    In other news, New Zealand is struggling with the social issue of why there are still a bottom class of people who haven't yet achieved billionaire status. Of course, the rest of the World likes to use the derogatory term, "New Zealand Problems" in reference to the old "First World Problems" that was popular a couple of decades ago.

  • by i kan reed (749298) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @11:46AM (#46091545) Homepage Journal

    Rules against harmful behavior are good, because they limit harmful behavior. Rules about how to play add stress, anger, and rebelliousness. This isn't especially complicated, and the headline makes perfect sense.

    I mean, anarchists are going to believe their dumb philosophy regardless of your pedantic correction of a headline. You haven't won anyone over to the "some rules are good" land.

  • by Sique (173459) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @11:48AM (#46091577) Homepage
    Actually, it's not toys the teachers gave them. Toys are objects specially designed to be played with. None of the items they gave to the kids was specially designed to be played with. A tree is not a toy. An old tyre is not a toy. A hose is not a toy. And thus there was no direction for the kids if and how they had to play with the items. And that's what kept the children occupied, that's what kept them motivated and busy.

    And that's what also reduced the bullying. If there are much more exciting things to do than bullying someone, why even bother with it?

  • by i kan reed (749298) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @11:50AM (#46091603) Homepage Journal

    Teaching is a profession dominated by meticulous organizers, you know ENFJ types, because they're pretty much the only ones that can cope with the amount of personal planning it takes. So that mentality ends up being projected onto students too, who don't do as well that way.

    (I just looked up ENFJ, it's apparently called the "teacher" personality type, funny)

  • by phantomfive (622387) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @12:00PM (#46091703) Journal

    Rules against harmful behavior are good, because they limit harmful behavior. Rules about how to play add stress, anger, and rebelliousness. This isn't especially complicated, and the headline makes perfect sense.

    It may make sense, but it's not related to the story. Really, read it; they gave the kids better toys, and the kids were more entertained. Some parents were worried because the toys might be dangerous. That's basically it.

  • by sjames (1099) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @12:17PM (#46091849) Homepage

    Why not reduce the regimentation of society as a whole? The mass of SSRIs and other happy pills people are gulping down to avoid total withdrawal and/or suicide may be telling us something.

    TFA isn't talking about declaring a 24/7 free for all, just including an unstructured break in the day. They're finding that it translates to better behavior and performance during the necessarily more structured times.

    So give the weekends and vacation days back and things will go better during the week. Only regiment what actually requires it. Replace managers who use obedience to regimentation as a way to fluff their egos with those more oriented towards productive and happy employees.

  • by AthanasiusKircher (1333179) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @12:20PM (#46091859)

    Yes. Now imagine how bad their toys must have been before, if tires are an improvement.

    What a failure of imagination. I feel sorry for you. Tires can be amazing toys -- they roll, they bounce, you can climb through them, you can line them up and run through them in a funny way, they do all sorts of wobbly funny things if you don't just roll them... add water and/or sand/mud, and I can think of a lot more fun activities.

    It seems like you've never been around a small child who found a large box to be the best toy he got for Christmas. He doesn't care about the fancy toy inside of it -- the box is more entertainment by itself.

    Witness that a few times, and you'll understand why the new toys in the story were probably an improvement over some sort of static fancy approved "equipment" that probably was what was there before.

  • by JoeMerchant (803320) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @12:32PM (#46091995)

    I'll subscribe to your newsletter, but I don't think you've got a snowball's chance in hell of seeing this kind of change become mainstream in your lifetime.

    There's a chaotic mix out there, and some of the larger, evidence driven organizations are finding just what you say - reduce regimentation and get more productivity for less cost, and they attempt to drive that through the company structure to make themselves more competitive in the marketplace.

    There's also a tremendous holdover of WWII boot camp mentality about "sir, yes, SIR" being productive and efficient, and when the touchy-feely crap has a bad day that boot camp mentality makes a resurgence - usually from grass roots believers who can't stand seeing their subordinates screwing off without getting punished the way they did back in the day.

    At least most of us have stopped beating our children regularly as a teaching tool.

"Let's show this prehistoric bitch how we do things downtown!" -- The Ghostbusters