Sunday, April 11, 2021


Weekly Opinion Editorial 


by Steve Fair

     Oklahoma HB# 1569 is known as the Oklahoma Play to Learn Act.  If it becomes law, it will encourage public educators to create play-based learning opportunities, in the realm of dancing, art, music and drama to teach kids in elementary school.  Authored by Rep. Jacob Rosecrant, (D-Norman) and Sen. Adam Pugh, (R-Edmond), the bill passed the House Education committee 14-0.  On March 23rd it passed the House on a bipartisan vote of 76-16.  All 16 nay floor votes were Republicans.  HB#1569 was passed by the Senate Education committee last week 10-2 and now is headed for a floor vote.  If it is passed there, it then moves to the governor’s desk.  Three observations:

     First, play based learning is not a new concept.  It was used in the 1700s.  Back then, educational or instructive toys were simple, but they were used to stimulate learning.  They often simplified or miniaturized objects used by adults.  Most early childhood instructors across the state already use play to learn techniques in their classrooms.   There are no current restrictions on teachers in Oklahoma using dance, music, art or drama to teach young children in school.

     Second, why is this bill necessary?  Is there a looming problem with a local school board in Oklahoma imposing a ‘no play’ at school rule?  It wouldn’t appear so.  So why is a specific bill addressing play to learn necessary?   Some believe HB#1569 and ‘play to learn’ is a conspiracy rooted in UN Agenda 21, the Gates Foundation, UNICEF and the left.  It’s true all of those mentioned advocate ‘play to learn,’ but there is no evidence of those organization’s involvement in the language of HB #1569.

     Third, education is changing.  With the advent of COVID-19, online/distance learning has replaced traditional classroom education.  That is likely going to be permanent.  Education leaders need to be proactive, get ahead of the curve, and embrace change.  In 2019, Bill Gates said textbooks are obsolete and software should replace them.  He also advocated a less structured environment for learning.   Both of those would empower students, pique curiosity and improve interest in learning.  Gates has some liberal far-out ideas, but these aren’t two of them. 

     Why should HB#1569 be killed in the Senate?  It appears innocuous.  Two reasons; (a) it is not needed.  Nothing HB#1569 validates is under threat.  No school board or administration has banned using play to learn in their districts.  At best it’s a feel-good bill.  If there is not a nefarious motive, then the defeat of HB#1569 will mean nothing.  (b) it doesn’t move the needle in education.  Oklahoma still ranks in the bottom 10 in test scores nationally (#43).  Last year, over 50% of the Oklahoma state government budget was spent on education.  Three years ago, historic raises were given to teachers and administrators with no significant improvement in test scores. It appears lots of playing is going on in school now.    

   Oklahoma’s whole structure of secondary education needs to be radically reformed, with the goal to get more money to the classroom, where it really makes a difference.  When that change happens, ‘play to learn’ will flourish without the passing of a law. Contact your state senator and encourage them to vote No on HB#1569.  It’s heartwarming, but unnecessary.


Jen Murphy said...

Can you please explain to me how you define play? Play is the work of children, it is how they learn best, not testing. I don't understand how you can base learning on test scores in the last 3 years (especially with COVID) and infer that there is too much playing going on in schools because test scores are down. If you look into Massachusetts schools that have some of the highest scores they advocate for play-based learning. What would be your opinion on advancing and elevating early childhood education in Oklahoma?

Steve Fair is a Jelly Salesman. said...

Did I write that I opposed Play to Learn? I said the legislation is not needed because Play to Learn is not prohibited.