Anne-Marie Slaughter is the mother of two adolescent kids and a Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University.
She’s concerned that we may be killing the skills required for innovation by over-programming our children:
… The jam packed, highly structured days of elite children are carefully calculated to create Ivy League-worthy resumes. They reinforce habits of discipline and conformity, programming remarkably well-rounded and often superb young people who can play near concert-quality violin, speak two languages, volunteer in their communities and get straight A’s.
These are the students that I see in my Princeton classes; I am often in awe of their accomplishments and teaching them is a joy. But I strongly suspect that they will not be the inventors of the next “new new thing”.
… Author of The Creative Class Richard Florida observes that “many researchers see creative thinking as a four-step process: preparation, incubation, illumination and verification or revision.”
Incubation is “the ‘mystical’ step,” one in which both the conscious mind and the subconscious mull over the problem in hard-to-define ways.” Hard to define, yes, but not hard to foster, as long as chunks of the day or the week are left open for relatively random activity …
Creativity gurus often suggest ways to add randomness to your life. Left to their own devices, teenagers are masters at drifting from fad to fad, website to website, and event to event as their fancy takes them, but that seemingly aimless, random wandering is exactly what we are programming out of them …
… To nurture young people who are willing to persevere in the face of deep skepticism or outright opposition, we must reward them or at least allow them to be rewarded for breaking the rules, not meeting our expectations by jumping through an endless series of hoops…
… The U.S. higher educational system recognizes the value of challenging authority; that is what “teaching critical thinking” is all about. I wrote in 2009 that the U.S. was primed to remain an innovation leader precisely because we give A’s for the answers that challenge the teacher’s thinking and B’s for the answers that echo it…
… In a recent piece on the perception that the current generation of young people are slackers, Jon Gosier notes that their habit of asking for help and wanting to work with others reflects their understanding of the gains that come from teamwork, which “have been learned from the collaborative nature of their childhood activities, which included social networks, crowd-sourcing and even video games like World of Warcraft.”
The corporate culture at hubs of innovation like Google and Twitter encourages employees to hang out together, work together and explore random ideas in a collaborative atmosphere.
… to be an innovation nation in the knowledge-based, networked economy of the 21st century, we must remember that creativity and entrepreneurship cannot be programmed, and that less is often more.
Read the full post: Rebellion of an Innovation Mom
Scouting is a good place to do less, to be unstructured and investigative, to try ideas and plans and to follow the things that interest you rather than the things that interest your teachers.