In his March 24 letter supporting proficiency-based learning, Peter Gore states that proficiency-based learning will prepare students with the soft skills that employers want. Should we be giving our taxpayer money to out-of-state organizations and consultants to implement an unproven education model to teach children soft skills? There is a better, well-proven way to ensure that children have the soft skills necessary to become successful in life and work. Play.

Today’s youths spend less time in undirected play for many reasons. They’re introduced to technology at a very young age. Parents have less free time to spend with their kids. Neighborhoods are less safe to play in. Kindergarten is the new first grade. To prepare children for the academic rigors of kindergarten, school districts are given financial incentives to add preschool programming. Schools have limited recess and physical education, music and art time, hoping to increase test scores and graduation rates and make kids career- and college-ready.

A January 2007 report by the American Academy of Pediatrics states: “Undirected play allows children to learn how to work in groups, to share, to negotiate, to resolve conflicts and to learn self-advocacy skills. When play is allowed to be child-driven, children practice decision-making skills.”

This report also extols the importance of caregivers joining in child-driven play. As vice president of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, Peter Gore should encourage businesses to revamp policies to create better work-life balance for all employees so they can enjoy more family time.

Parents should require school districts to provide longer recess times and more funding for music and arts. Preschool programs should incorporate more child-driven playtime. Communities should do all they can to make neighborhoods safe to play in. Caregivers should spend more time playing alongside their children. Soft skills are learned through child-driven play, not proficiency-based learning.

Jennifer Richardson