Lines less traveled

If you haven’t seen it, I encourage you to check out Logan Laplante’s TEDx talk about how he’s taken charge of his education, organizing his life around a commitment to being happy, healthy, and fostering creativity.

There’s just one small thing I wish Logan had taken a step further. He says that to follow a traditional educational trajectory is like skiing one well-worn line down a mountain, while designing a program for yourself is like heading off into the powder to blaze your own trail.  I’m with him up to the part where he says that the shared line is probably safer.  In the snow it may be, but when you’re building a life, I’m not so sure.

I think it may once have been, but it’s getting less and less safe to traverse the common route.  The competition is so great for the handful of spots there are to fill along the way (in the “best” colleges, “best” graduate schools, the “best” jobs) that it’s no longer a fail-safe way to build a life.  We just keep saying it is because the powder makes us nervous.  The powder’s unknown.  We’d rather take our chances on the thing that will almost certainly work out for some people, even if it’s only a very, very small percentage, than head off into the powder where everyone probably has an approximately equal chance of making it, because there are so many more routes possible and winning spots doesn’t matter so much, if it matters at all.

We’re not safer on the route we know.  We’re just more comfortable there.

I’m so grateful to Logan for the framework he offers, simply and frankly, in this talk. Logan lives in the kind of world I think we could build for everyone, where vitality is of the utmost value and importance and can, in fact, be the best possible guide.

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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?” Continue reading

Out of their seats

If we’re serious about fighting childhood obesity (and thus, obesity), it seems to me the best place to start would be decreasing the amount of sitting kids are required to do every day.  Of course we also need to make more nutritional food available to more kids, but that will take a lot more than letting them get up out of their seats.  Kids already want to be moving more, so we won’t likely be met with much resistance.

A recent University of Buffalo study offered another reason to infuse the young day with motion: reduced  stress reactivity, which from the sound of it not only offers an immediate benefit to the body but can also help reduce the chance of developing heart disease.  “The perception of a stressor as a threat is the beginning of the stress reactivity process, so if you can dampen that initial perception, then you reduce the magnitude of the fight-or-flight response,” says James Roemmich, the senior investigator on the study.

Apparently sending the body into fight-or-flight, which the world is fairly adept at doing, is not so good for it.  We’re not likely to eliminate the stressors any time soon, so we’ll do well to reduce their ill effects to the extent we can.  And if one thing we can do is let kids move around more, which they already want to, that seems like a good place to start.