By Victoria Sung, Special to The Outlook
Flintridge Preparatory School recently welcomed Peter Gray, research professor of psychology at Boston College. Gray met with students on campus during the day and spoke to about 200 parents that evening at La Cañada Presbyterian Church.
Speaking with students, Gray cited research showing that income and happiness are not impacted by college choice. Instead of worrying about attending a top-ranked college, he suggested students find purpose in doing the things they enjoy, eventually translating their passions into a career.
In his evening presentation, Gray referenced reports from colleges of an increase in emotional distress among their students when trying to manage everyday bumps in the road. Gray, whose recent research focuses on the role of play in human evolution and how children educate themselves, described the social phenomena that have led to this decline in emotional resilience. He also provided parents with some ideas to encourage resilience.
He used an array of anecdotes and studies to describe the correlation between increased anxiety and depression and decreased creativity in adolescents, and connected these changes to the decrease in unsupervised, unconstructive play since the mid-1950s.
“I loved Dr. Gray’s warning about a ‘play deficit disorder’ in America,” remarked Headmaster Peter Bachmann. “A great reminder to all of us about work and play, scheduled and unscheduled time, personal passion… if only we could heed it!”
Presented by the Flintridge Prep Parent Association and The Fathers Club, The Flintridge Prep Speaker Series is an adult education program designed to educate, entertain and inform the school community of parents and extended family members, supporting the school’s goal to encourage life-long learning. Laura Campobasso, chair of the Speaker Series planning committee, says that Gray was a perfect fit for the series.
“We were very interested in Peter Gray because of his insights on how our teens develop resilience,” said Campobasso. “The college pressure deprives students of high school and we wanted insight on how they can be teenagers first.”
Peter Gray has published work on such topics as neuroendocrinology, developmental psychology, anthropology and education. He is the author of “Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life” and is a regular contributor to the Freedom to Learn blog for Psychology Today magazine.