When was the last time you asked yourself something for the first time? There are days when it is essential to ask questions again and others in which to ask new things opens the mind completely. In a high-speed world, most people do not ask themselves questions, nor they don’t ask others. This happens at the macro level but it also happens in schools and in homes. Many young people have lost the illusion of asking. Either because the teachers do not incite it and so many others, running behind a schedule and a program, are more concerned about the administrative than about the essential. Many children fear asking for fear of being punished for it. And in this context we see more and more questions die every day.
It is not difficult to understand each other, but between ones and others there are no solutions that change this mechanics. Several young people have shared that after seeing their math teacher move forward in their classes without worrying or worrying about whether students understand, many of them end up learning math on YouTube. This happens outside of class time. It frustrates to see how the teacher ignores what happens and that technology takes the place that corresponded to him. Do not be surprised if in the near future, many classes end up being given by computers that not only fulfill the same role of information transmission but also do it in a more understandable and didactic way.
This scenario, as possible as real, leads us to ask ourselves new questions. Questions that recurrently assail us because of this kind of school nonsense. So we ask ourselves what kind of world are we living in? What model of world do we go to? What world do we want to build? What are we transmitting to our youth? What example are we giving? Undoubtedly, the world we are going to is unknown to everyone. To imagine how it will be, for example, in 14 years is difficult to achieve, although that year 2030 is already closer to us than the year 2000. However, if the new generations – among them Generation Y and Z- that were born in an almost digital or digital world were stimulated in the development of their creative capacities, the future would almost certainly be a better space.
Creativity is the natural state of children and young people. For the child, life is a creative adventure. As they get older, that creativity decreases. Do they stop creating because they stop being children or they stop being children because they stop creating? There are some studies that mention that from the age of about 10, the creative child becomes a child of the system. This means that their desire to ask, to discover, to explore, to invent is anesthetized or simply removed. We say nothing that is not public knowledge and that is not based on studies but the simple observation of children. Castrating creativity and imagination is aberrant and little or nothing is being done to stop it. Therefore, new questions emerge: What if instead of adapting to new parameters in education marked by changes already established, we create a new paradigm based on creativity? What if, with that premise, we could then channel the potential of each child into their areas of interest? From birth, train them to create where there is nothing. So that their worries do not end at the decade of being born but that transcends them.
It is almost as if we have to reinvent the way we educate in early childhood. We need to find new ways of educating children to allow creativity to flourish. So that childhood can be childhood again. That all the potential they have inside can be developed. Children are creativity in the pure state, they are a treasure.
How many of the things young people do learn in school will be useful for their lives?
We are in a moment of redefinition. We need creative leadership, which incorporates the experience of today’s young people who carry the digital in their DNA. Without neglecting the need for a fundamental academic background, the learning experience goes beyond the classroom, the library, the playground. At the MIT Media Lab I was told that a student in the early years began to study the relationship between ants and ultraviolet light. After months of observation and analysis he presented a work in which he demonstrated how the ants modified their path to follow a new path illuminated by this light. His discovery can affect entire ecosystems, parks, squares, even jungles. The young man asked the MIT Media Lab to allow him to deepen his study and got the New York Zoo to open his doors to expand his observation and obtain new conclusions. Imagine for a moment a student of ESO (Secondary School in Spain) or from most of our local Universities that he came to see a teacher with this concern. What do you think would be the answer?
How do we transform the system so that young people can break rules, invent new and better futures, experience without fear of being punished for being wrong? How do we encourage young people to have an entrepreneurial instinct, to leave behind the idea of ”security” to immerse themselves in labor mobility? What are we waiting to understand that we are living in a global village with global changes and that it requires open minds without frontiers for change?
In a study of people who shaped the twentieth century with their creative genius, Howard Gardner, a psychologist and professor at Harvard University, found that while each of them had reached the limits of their scope, they had something in common in that they had a childish freshness in the way of approaching their work. If we go back to review the list of some of the geniuses of the nineteenth and twentieth century we will find that at age 20 Pablo Picasso could paint as well as anyone else in the world. At that same age Albert Einstein could do as well physical as anyone. Thomas Edison, one of the great inventors of history, said: “I have not failed. I’ve just discovered ten thousand alternatives that do not work.” Curious minds create things that did not exist before. It can not be created without knowledge, but it can not be invented without imagination.
The great discoverers have had to fight against the rejection of a fearful society towards the new. The Spanish educational system does not contemplate the possibility of making mistakes as part of the creative process. That is why fear of failure is one of the most complex barriers to overcome not only in a student’s life but throughout his or her life. If the elders were truly aware that a person who loses the fear of making mistakes is a person who can experiment, invent, change the world for the better, everything would be different. If instead of being punished by every mistake, the professor or teacher encouraged him to continue trying, we would be educating people with confidence and self-confidence. There are few more powerful tools for a child or a young person than self-confidence.
People (with the exception of those very strong personalities) will lose the little confidence they already have in themselves if the mistake is permanently penalized. In the MIT Media Lab they told us that they have found that on many occasions, when the student makes a mistake, he ends up opening roads or doors that he had not even imagined. They do not see it as a problem, but as an opportunity.
Probably at this time we can apply more than in any other, the mythical phrase of Albert Von Szent Gyorgyi about what it means to discover: “The discovery consists in seeing what everyone has seen and thinking what nobody has thought.” And for this we must change our way of thinking. Surely, by giving young people the tools to create, to imagine, to develop the gifts they carry within, the world we imagine may become real.
We are in a moment of chaos and disorder, from where you can emerge with creativity and imagination. At this time, the innovators are in charge. For this reason, intangible assets, mental openness and multiculturalism are revalued. Although technology drives change, the way we treat each other is humanized. The succesful of earlier times fail. New companies are constantly breaking new ground. We all know that the younger ones make us feel younger in spirit. In addition, they can help us visualize the future. When parents, teachers and tutors encourage the creativity of children, they discover what psychologists now confirm: most children have a talent, a natural gift, an ability (or several) for an activity.
Many years ago I had the opportunity to study part of the secondary school in the United States. The theme of one of the classes was “apartheid”. They took us to the school library and separated us into two groups. They gave us magazines and newspapers (Time, Newsweek, Economist, The New York Times, etc.) and gave us some time to gather all the information related to it. In that time we had to read everything that came out in those media about South Africa and apartheid. Then both groups would debate. One group had to defend the system and the other to attack it. In order to do this, it was necessary to document well, to elaborate a solid argument, to find the strengths of your position and the weaknesses of the opponents. Each group had to put aside their shyness and their ignorance to get on the stand and defend their position. The exercise was truly unforgettable. We immerse ourselves in apartheid by living the experience of reading, doubting, asking, organizing, reasoning, arguing and communicating. In life “you can not create the experience, you must experience it,” as Albert Camus wisely claimed. Many years later, a subject as sensitive as apartheid was always present in our interests, while we learned that before talking we have to be informed and not always the one who is right wins, but the one who argues better and communicates more convincingly. In the theater of life you have to expose yourself, go on stage, reason, discuss, feel, debate, leave behind the fears, learn from the experiences, listen, enter different worlds. Assume the world is imperfect.
It is almost unlikely to see a kind of debate, a study group well tutored or guided by a teacher, a passionate group preparing arguments. What you see are stressed, stressed and overwhelmed children who at the end of the day do not learn but suffer.
There is no doubt that change is not and will not be simple. Of course it’s not. It is one of the most complex changes that we as society must face, and yet one of the most necessary processes. Young people believe in the example of their elders not in words. Young people believe. Every young person like each parent and teacher is different, but everyone has something in common: the need to learn, to share, to create, to experiment. To make the world a better place.
About parents and children when Eve and Ted Branson, the parents of the founder of the Virgin Group, were asked about how Richard was at school, they replied: “Let’s just say it was unusual at school. We did not know if it was 99% stupid or 1% exceptional. We cling to that 1 percent.“
A couple of years ago we were invited to give a master lecture in one of the most prestigious schools in Latin America. Before this, the school organized a meal with the 10 young people with better grades of all the superior courses. At lunch, in addition to them, the Director, some teachers and authorities, not more than 20 people in total. Between dish and dish I asked the students what career they thought to follow. Responses focused on “advocacy”, “business administration” and “architecture”. When I asked everyone about their parents’ work, the answers were focused on: “he is a lawyer”, “they are architects”, “he is a businessman”. There was an absolute correlation between the work of the parents and the career that the children were going to follow. It was then, when letting a few minutes pass, I asked, and what would you “like” to study? Then the future lawyer responded that interior designer, the future businessman said marketing and advertising and the future architects, veterinary. The weight of the environment was not being positive when it made the young people have to choose between duty and want. Between the imposed and his true vocation.
Parents have a huge responsibility that they often do not pay much attention to. And it is in that attention where we are cementing the future of our children, our society and our world. It is a good time to ask again the great question of: Are we educating the future generations with a good example?