I’ve been absent from the blogosphere, not to mention normal life, for far too long. Since the middle of January, my every waking moment has been consumed with the pursuit of knowledge. My husband has grown accustomed to sleeping in an otherwise-unoccupied bed; he is confident that, should he get a call from work in the wee hours of the morning (as he is wont to do), he can come downstairs at the completion of said call and find me in my nest on the couch, pinned down by a laptop and covered in books, papers, the odd bag of pretzels or popcorn, and a cat. And I will probably be asleep with the light on. Patient, wonderful man that he is, he’ll try to toss a blanket over me and creep back up the stairs without waking me up. How I love him, even though he never succeeds.
Ah, but there is a light at the end of this tunnel, albeit a temporary one. As of the 12th of August, I will have completed my baccalaureate degree and graduated with honors from Texas State University. I will rest for a few short weeks, and the temporary light will then blink once in warning and shut off, my glutton-for-punishment self having begun a masters’ program.
Why, if I see it as punishment, am I doing this to myself and to my family? Well, because actually, I don’t see it as punishment. That was said firmly tongue-in-cheek. Those who know me know that I’d gladly be a lifelong student, were I afforded the opportunity. But there is one aspect of all this education – or education in general – that I do find somewhat punitive, and that is the fact that a “proper” education stifles – nay, kills – creativity. It’s intended to, starting with elementary school.
Our current educational model was developed around the time of the Industrial Revolution, and its purpose was to create good little worker bees who showed up at the factories and did the same mind-numbing tasks day in and day out. Except if their minds were already numb, they wouldn’t be bothered by all that. So students were put in straight rows and taught to recite the information they had been fed. Teachers kept a heavy hand on them, and if anyone got out of line (showed personality?), they were likely to get rapped on the knuckles, ridiculed, or worse.
Today, teachers are not quite so heavy-handed, but the Industrial Revolution DNA is still present in many, many schools across the country. Now, I am not disputing the value of “the three R’s” and such; in fact, I think a good, solid education in the core subjects is vital. But it is no more vital than a good, solid education in more creative subjects. We want our students to grow up and be productive members of society, but how is that possible if they are not given the opportunity to develop non-core aptitudes and interests, to think differently, and to create? Their biggest strengths and gifts may lie outside the realm of intellectualism – and those strengths and gifts are JUST as important as the strengths and gifts of the fact-lovers. This is classic Type A – Type B, left-brain/right-brain stuff, and I’ve a sneaking suspicion that far too many of the kids who are diagnosed with ADHD are simply right-brainers who use their entire bodies to engage in learning.
I read an article today that said virtually ALL children ages 5 and under are able to think non-linearly about an issue and to come up with creative solutions. By the time those children hit 8 years of age, the number of non-linear thinkers dwindles to 28%. When they hit early adulthood, only 2% of them can do this. Obviously, the potential for creativity is there in everyone at the start. So why don’t we value this more and make every effort to sustain it?
Having taught high school, I have seen that the majority of thinkers about education fall into two camps. There’s the one group that insists we need MORE order and structure in the classroom, that if it was good enough for them as children, it’s good enough for today’s kids. And then there’s the group that wants to let the students dictate everything, all the time, nevermind their maturity levels. Neither group has the answer.
Really, the solution is simple. But I fear the implementation of the solution is nigh unto impossible, at least through the public school system. The answer is found in Proverbs 22:6. The Amplified Bible puts it this way: Train up a child in the way he should go [and in keeping with his individual gift or bent], and when he is old he will not depart from it.
Such a simple concept. God, who made each of us unique and reflective of Him in some way, tasks parents with learning to recognize their child’s giftings and proclivities, and providing them with the training that cultivates those traits. He doesn’t say there’s one way for every kid, and that is to be a worker bee. No. He was intentional in creating your child, in creating YOU. He knows exactly which training will mold each of us into the most successful and productive version of ourself we can be. And while the primary responsibility lies with the parents, how wonderful would it be if we could rely on the public school system to offer each student the opportunity to explore his or her strengths and weaknesses, interests and dislikes? There has got to be balance, yes: keep some structure and guidelines in place, and teach a well-rounded curriculum – well-rounded. This means give equal weight to history and to dance, to math and to art. And when a child shows an aptitude in some area, adapt the curriculum to that area. If a child shows an ability to write well, let her write. And teach her history, but emphasize the people who recorded our history, or who wrote historical documents, or who satirized the Teapot Dome scandal in verse. Show her how she can grow up and do those things, too.
College is a LITTLE better, though you might not agree if you sat in on my Management of Organizations class. 🙂 I do have some professors who encourage me to think in new ways. And because I’ve always chafed at being stifled, it’s probably not as difficult for me as it is for some to be creative. But what about those whose creative tendencies have been completely shut down over the years? I am bound and determined not to let my son become one of them. At 6 years of age, he has many years of schooling in front of him, and I will do all in my power to train him in the way he should go, so that when he is in college, he will not depart from it.
Today, go do something creative and out of the box for you. And afterward, take a few minutes to think about how much more like yourself you felt than normal. Keep doing creative things…and let Creative You become your new normal. Because it’s who you were made to be.