Caring deeply about our children is part of what makes us human. Yet the thing we call "parenting" is a surprisingly new invention. In the past 30 years, the concept of parenting and the multibillion-dollar industry surrounding it have transformed child care into obsessive, controlling, and goal-oriented labor intended to create a particular kind of child and therefore a particular kind of adult.
In The Gardener and the Carpenter, pioneering developmental psychologist and philosopher Alison Gopnik argues that the familiar 21st-century picture of parents and children is profoundly wrong - it's not just based on bad science, it's bad for kids and parents, too. Drawing on the study of human evolution and her own cutting-edge scientific research into how children learn, Gopnik shows that although caring for children is profoundly important, it is not a matter of shaping them to turn out a particular way. Children are designed to be messy and unpredictable, playful and imaginative, and very different both from their parents and from each other. The variability and flexibility of childhood lets them innovate, create, and survive in an unpredictable world. "Parenting" won't make children learn - but caring parents let children learn by creating secure, loving environments.
"Narrator Erin Bennett commendably presents this unique audiobook on raising children. Alison Gopnik, an expert on children's development, lambasts the current style of parenting, which she calls the 'carpenter method' because it relies on an established blueprint (as in making a chair) to produce a successful but predictable child who also excels at test taking. Gopnik prefers the 'gardener approach,' which gives the child love, encouragement, and freedom to play and imagine, which she says results in a more creativity. Bennett's delivery of Gopnik's passionate argument is appealing and easy to understand. She also captures Gopnik's subtle humor and supporting quotes from experts. The moving conclusion comes full circle as it discusses end-of-life commitments that adult children have to their elderly parents." (AudioFile Magazine)
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Interesting research facts, bad conclusions
The author provided us with lots of interesting research results in children's cognitive development. That's the fun part of the book. But then she went on to criticize the idea of modern school, the idea of treating ADHD as a psychological condition, and so on. Well, the researches do show that kids are capable of naturally acquiring the cognitive skills belonging to a normal human being, which could survive a hunter and gatherer society, but that's it. Kids can't just learn reading, maths, logical thinking, science, technical expertise and so on, which are immensely important in our world, just through playing or "apprenticeship", which she regarded as the best way of learning. Yes, schools today have many problems, but can she provide a better system? She dismisses the importance of the ability of "focusing", which is always required in schools. But can she show those kids who fail in schools due to ADHD a way to survive the competitive modern society? Not every school drop out can become a successful musician or athletet.
- Xi Ding