Don't let children lose sight of the pleasure principle | Frank Cottrell Boyce

Posted by Pierre Jean Duvivier on Sun, 03/18/2012 - 06:06 in Books, Children, Comment, culture, Education, PHP, The Observer

Frank Cottrell Boyce est l'auteur de ce post que vous pouvez integralement retrouver ici : article original

As Plan B made clear at TEDx, stories should be an essential part of inspiring young people

Every writer who visits a school gets asked this question: where do ideas come from? The standard response is to quote Douglas Adams ("Ideas R Us in Swindon"), but I feel uncomfortable fobbing off children with one-liners.

A newly qualified teacher asked me to visit his class. I said: "OK, but I don't do workshops or worksheets or anything. I believe in reading for pleasure." Fine, he said, then he introduced me to his class thus: "We're going to use our listening skills (he touched his ears) to pick out Frank's wow words and his connectors." Great. Can't wait.

If you've been made to list the wow words and connectors in a story, it will never haunt you. At last week's TEDx/Observer ideas conference, at which I spoke, the talk by Ben Drew, aka Plan B, dedicated to inspiring kids, was terrific. If, when we give our children a story or a picture, we ask for some meaningless written exercise in return, we are making one of the most ancient forms of giving ("Listen, I'll tell you a story") as transactional as Ideas R Us.

I think pleasure is a form of attention. If you can take pleasure in something – an idea, an activity – then your brain will happily entertain it for years without aim or objective. It's therefore a particularly open form of thinking that allows you to surprise yourself and the rest of humanity. If you look at Darwin's account of the Beagle voyage, for instance, it's a completely carefree book. It's mostly an account of his adventures – watching volcanos erupt, being caught in an earthquake.

His days on Galapagos are some of the most important in the history of ideas, but the most vivid moment in this account is his description of repeatedly lobbing a marine lizard into the sea and watching it swim back. It's like a paragraph from Just William.

The thing about pleasure is that it can seem aimless until it's ready to deliver. Yet, thanks to the cult of testing, we are constantly chivvying our children to hand stuff in, to "feed back". We encourage them to be focused and driven. There's a time and a place for being focused and driven. The time is Saturday night. The place is X Factor.

The cult of testing has its roots in that great modern superstition: competition. Competition might sharpen the knife, but it will never invent the knife. The writer Neil Gaiman said: "Stories that you read when you're the right age never quite leave you... if they touch you, they will haunt the places in your mind that you rarely visit."

Clearly there's a place for testing but there also has to be a place for giving – for sharing – those things that are great and amazing without asking for anything back. We have no idea what their future holds. How can we – tethered to the present – possibly know what their aims and objectives should be? © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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