What then?

Last week I wrote about expanding what we imagine is possible, so that kids might realize potential that transcends what history and habit have told us we can hope for.  If we were to find it in ourselves to make that shift, what might it lead us to?  What would we do differently?

Here’s one place to start.  Ask yourself this question: “What capacity does this child have that I think the world could use more of?” It’s subjective, obviously, and the mere suggestion of it drives up a host of challenges for a culture accustomed to educating its children en masse.  But what can happen for you and your kids, just because you’ve asked the question, can be astounding.  A few possible answers for kids I know or know of:

• concern for the well-being of small or otherwise vulnerable creatures

• resistance to competitive games and other activities

• passion for organizing, rearranging, restructuring

• attention to detail (time, fairness, malfunction)

• intolerance of inefficiency

• knack for negotiating social conflicts

• ability to see things more than one way

• love of building things out of found objects

• refusal to comply with empty rules

• prowess with repairing mechanical things

By considering this question you make it possible to to see your child (and even his or her frustrating/distracting habits or characteristics) very differently.  There’s of course plenty more to do toward supporting kids in building paths that might actually get them thriving and keep them thriving, but the seeing can be a huge first step and can alter what feels important.

Reading, writing, arithmetic, the path to college – these can all be useful.  But they often fall short when it comes to launching a young human on his or her best possible path.  They make good starting points only for those whose capacities lie within that narrow band of possible potentials. We imagine that there are but a few paths to the outcomes we want for kids, but now more than ever our culture is flooded with young people who can write flawlessly, perform elaborate calculations, memorize long strings of facts.  We don’t need more of that.  And too much attention on those things isn’t getting graduates jobs and it certainly isn’t helping them find fulfilling ways to contribute whatever they are uniquely qualified to contribute.

We imagine that it’s a luxury to indulge in one’s interests or passions and existing abilities.  Such indulgence might keep a kid happy in the short term but it won’t ever earn them a living, right?

Are we sure?  Do we know that it won’t?  Might it actually be the very access to simultaneous fulfillment, security, contribution, we’ve been missing?

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