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[Susan notes: Good letter, addressing deeper implications of the stupid toy, not addressed in the article.]

Published in New York Times

To the editor

Re "For Some Parents, It's Never Too Early for SAT Prep" (Business Day, Dec. 20):

In toy sales, this season's hot item is the Time Tracker, a device designed to help children as young as 4 keep track of time at home and in that way perform better on standardized tests.

The toy signals when 20 minutes have passed, then 30 minutes, and when time's up.

But the deepest and most creative thought often occurs outside clock time. Children naturally become so absorbed in play and artistic activities that they lose all track of time. Adults, too, become oblivious to time during the activities that most fully engage them.

This capacity for deep concentration characterizes human functioning at its best, and we shouldn't let a panic over test scores disrupt the childhood origins of it.

William Crain

New York, Dec. 20, 2004

The writer is a professor of psychology, City College, CUNY.

William Crain, Prof. of Psychology, CUNY

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