We have the wrong focus on risk!

At the Go Dundee Learning Journey last Saturday,  Stuart Waiton, from Abertay University in Dundee gave a short and provocative talk on ‘young people and risk’ to the group in the beautiful setting of the regenerated Baxter Park Pavilion.

In brief, he was arguing that this excessive focus on ‘risk’ and ‘safety’, is a new way of thinking that has crept in over the years. By seeking (with good motivation) to protect children, we are in danger of actually undermining their own development as they learn to take risks and learn from their own experience. He also went on to argue that this focus destroys community!

The Time Magazine has run an article which reinforces this point.

In a paper just published in PLoS ONE ‘ a journal of the Public Library of Science ‘ a team led by psychiatrist Gregory Berns of Emory University in Atlanta shows that adolescents who engage in more dangerous activities have white-matter pathways that appear more mature than those of risk-averse youths. White matter is essentially the brain’s wiring ‘ the neural strands that connect the various gray-matter regions, where the actual nerve cells reside, that are otherwise independent of one another. Maturation of white matter is important because it increases the brain’s processing speed; nerve impulses travel faster in mature white matter.

See also this artcile from the Telegraph: ‘Let children learn by taking risks, says RoSPA’

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