Educating The Good Out of Our Children?

I’ve talked in the past about mistakes, and how our culture so desperately tries to get us to think of them as a bad thing – something to be avoided at all costs. And okay, I admit that there are some mistakes that should be avoided at all costs – the types of mistakes that are dangerous.

But, there are many mistakes that should not be avoided at all cost. In fact, they should be used as learning opportunities or, as I like to call them, “learning-takes.”

I’m not the first to comment about how we, as humans, are born with a natural curiosity, and how over time it’s driven out of us. We’re born with an amazing capability to use our imagination, but if we use it too much we’re told to “get real” and “stop being so silly.” Our imaginations are trained out of us.

Recently I’ve been conducting a program, and acting as the national spokesperson, for a company invested in improving teens’ driving skills. In doing the program, I’ve been interacting with the kids, training them, and asking them questions. At first I felt very satisfied when a teen would answer one of my questions with the perfect answer – an answer that made me feel the company should hire them as a spokesperson!

Over time, though, and as I paid more attention to their answers and how they answered, I came to another conclusion: these teens are very well trained to give the answer they know they are expected to provide. It’s almost as if they were not capable of really thinking for themselves, so they gave the answer they knew we wanted to hear.

Like I said, it felt good at first. But the more I interacted with these teens, the sadder I became. Sure, I’m making a generalization, as I know there are some teens who are very capable of thinking for themselves. Even the ones participating in these events might be the ones who are capable of thinking for themselves. But what, then, makes them feel they have to give the answer they know we want. Is that what school does for our children?

Given the choice between teens who think for themselves and get the “wrong” answer and teens who just blurt out the answer that they know we, the adults, want to hear, I’ll take the former any time. How about you? Which do you want?

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