There was this little girl of six whose teacher said she hardly ever paid attention in class unless it was drawing lessons. One day, this girl was all by herself in the back of the classroom drawing. So the teacher approached her saying, “What are you drawing?” and the girl said, “I’m drawing a picture of God”. The teacher then questioned her, “But nobody knows what God looks like?” To that, the girl said, “… well, they will in a minute”.
MEETING THE CHALLENGES OF TOMORROW
In a previous article we posted A Dysfunctional Education, we featured a video on Sir Ken Robinson who makes an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures rather than undermines creativity. He submits some well-founded arguments for changes in how we should think about our own intelligence and creativity and how we should educate our chil-dren and each other to meet the extraordinary challenges of living and working in the 21st century.
To face our future, a country like New Zealand needs to celebrate and develop the diverse talents of all of its people, particularly our young. It needs to culti-vate creativity and innovation, systematically and with confidence. These are the real basics. But even more basic to all of them is a different view of human talent and ability, and of the real conditions in which people actually flourish.
FOUNTAINHEAD OF OUR FUTURE
We have observed that there is extraordinary evidence of human creativity – particularly in terms of the variety and range of it, but it is put in a place where we have no idea of what is going to happen next in terms of the future and how this may play out.
Most of us believe that education is supposed to take us into this future but one which we can’t fully grasp. If you think about it, children starting school this year will be retiring in 2065. But nobody has a clue even what our world would look like in 5 years time and yet, we’re meant to be educating them for it.
A growing number of researchers and educators are now discovering that peo-ple, especially our young ones, construct new knowledge with particular ef-fectiveness when they are engaged in constructing personally-meaningful things. What’s important is whether they are constructing model airplanes or computer programs, they are actively engaged in creating something that is meaningful to themselves or to others around them.
We can no longer deny the potential for our youth to impact vast numbers of other people in very real ways in their own communities. We will give you an example of that in a while. But, as older citizens, teachers, and parents, our mindsets must adapt to this new reality – and that is, we must learn to teach our youth to become self-sufficient learners if they are to fly free above the turmoil of the accelerating rate of change in our modern world.
A TERRIBLE THING TO WASTE
Faith in Families’ contention is that all youth in our country today have tremendous talents and we need to provide them with rich opportunities for learning. We believe, however, that we may be squandering our future if we fail to recognise that creativity – which is a process of self-discovery and learning new things even if there are a few mis-takes being made along the way, is as important in education as literacy. We should treat it with the same status. If not, creativity’s importance in the education of our youth would be a terrible thing to waste.
If you’re we’re not prepared to be wrong, we’ll never come up with anything original or innovative. By the time our children get to be adults most of them will lose that capacity. They become frightened of being wrong because we stig-matize their mistakes in schools, where they are being educated. So, we don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of our creative capacities. We get ‘educated’ out of it. And guess what? Whether we like to admit it or not most companies, businesses and other institutions are run in much the same way.
MEETING 21st CENTURY NEEDS WITH 19th CENTURY TOOLS
So why is this? It’s because the primary focus in schools today is on methods of teaching – not motivations for learning. Each one of them has the same hier-archy of subjects. It doesn’t matter where you go.
There is a good reason for this. Most systems of education that are in place today were invented only in the 19th century – ones that would meet the needs of industrialism. As such, the most useful subjects for work were placed at the top predicated on the entire idea of academic ability, thus shaping our view of intelligence today. As a result, the whole system is a protracted process of uni-versity entrance. As it is, we are addressing the needs of the 21st century with 19th century tools.
Unfortunately, the consequence of holding on too dearly to this mindset is that it blithely discards the fact that many highly-talented, brilliant and creative young people think they’re not qualified for univ-ersity entrance largely because what they were interested in or good at, while being ‘educated’ in the lower levels of our school system, wasn’t val-ued or was actually stigmatised.
As it is, many courses emphasize how and what teachers should teach, but seldom examine why their students might want to learn. What’s more, when the issue of motivation is addressed, the emphasis is often placed on extrinsic motivators and incentives, such as grades and prizes based on performance.
But if you closely look outside of school, we can find many examples of young people learning – and learning exceptionally well, without explicit rewards. Youth who seem to have short attention spans in school often display great concentration on projects that they are truly interested in. And, they excel.
Intelligence is diverse, dynamic, interactive and distinct. It will be even more so when you consider that in the next 50 years – with the combination of newer technologies and its transformational effect on work, demography and the huge explosion of population, more people worldwide will be graduating since the beginning of history but in a new era where the whole structure of education will be shifting beneath their feet. With that said, we need to start seriously thinking about changing tomorrow today.
Why? It’s because suddenly, the educational degrees we’ve been taught to value as the ticket to get us ahead in life won’t perhaps be worth as much as anything by then. It will be age where intelligence will come from interaction of different disciplinary ways of seeing and do things. It will be a new world where creative ideas that work, will be those more highly-esteemed (and sought after) at work.
NEXT PART: A Chap Named Sam