Mon, May 01, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Letter: Give kids space to dream

Next time when you see your child having a daydream or playing a game of make-believe, don't chastise him or distract him from it because he is using this time to develop his imagination and creativity. This kind of behavior will not only help him to accelerate his thinking, but also strengthen his confidence to solve unexpected problems and deal with life.

Albert Einstein once said that imagination was more important than knowledge. Indeed, our imagination unties us from the past and the real world, and allows us to contemplate the future and an alternative reality.

I can testify to this. We are an ordinary family living in Taipei. Our two children never went to cram schools. They studied at public schools: Long An Elementary School, Chin Hwa Junior High School, Zhongzheng and Nan Gang Senior High School.

Every year they enjoyed their spring and summer vacations by playing games with friends, swimming, reading stories or acting in self-created dramas. All these non-utilitarian activities allowed them to develop active and inquiring minds. In addition, we had meals at home and ate together in order to communicate, exchange knowledge and learn from each other.

The result has been positive. Right now both children are studying in their preferred faculties at national universities. They aren't perfect kids, but they have very strong personalities and know very well how to enjoy life. I'm very grateful to their teachers and I don't ever regret the decision my husband and I made to trust our children and let them take responsibility for their lives.

Unfortunately, many parents are obsessed with their children's success. They deny their kids the opportunity to dream and develop their imaginations. They keep them as busy as slaves. Just have a look at their schedules after school and you will realize how overworked they are. They spend all their free time on studying at cram schools or at home with tutors.

The summer vacations are planned to participate in all kinds of camps in order to reinforce skills and knowledge. One example I have heard of is the "Leadership Camp." This kind of thing sends shivers down my spine and reminds me of Hitler's Napola, the famous schools for the Nazi elite.

Parents are obsessed with such educational activities due to the loss of our "spaces of imagination." The city environment, in turn, is responsible for this loss. I'm sure you've heard about OmniAd Media, the new neon god whose flat-panel screens and billboards proliferate in Taipei buses and MRT stations. Its advertisements bombard the public with noise and visual pollution.

According to its own name "Omnia" -- Latin for "all the things" -- the goal is to invade every vacant space to force-feed us with commercial information.

Unfortunately many parents don't realize the importance of spaces of imagination. They don't resist the Omnia invasion and have been gradually deprived of their right to live in a quiet environment, which is the physical and conceptual space of imaginative mind.

In a word, we parents must make the right choice, to allow our children to become like battery chickens or content, free-range hens. If we want our kids to become free-range students, we must be very determined to resist the global trend toward commercialization, especially in big cities.

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