My wife, Amy, is a high school architecture teacher. I recently went with her on a trip to Boston where she attended a conference on Design Thinking for Educators. While she was at the conference, I sat in Boston Common and read Linchpin by Seth Godin. Afterwards, as we shared our notes, the similarities between the conference and my reading became very apparent.
Our society and educational systems are, unfortunately, extremely proficient at extinguishing creative thinking. Society teaches us to be constant consumers—of information, entertainment, and material things—as a shortcut to fulfillment, while education teaches us to be great conformers (test takers, rule followers, answer givers). School curriculums and tests are often overly-standardized, areas of study are notoriously disconnected, and teachers and students are taught to stay in line, question less, follow the test schedule, and everything will be fine. Status quo and boredom, unintentionally, are often the outcome for both teacher and student.
As Seth Godin puts it:
The tragedy is that our society is drumming out genius [which is in each and every one of us]. We’re engaged in a Faustian bargain, in which we trade our genius and artistry for apparent stability … and because fear is such a great motivator, classrooms become fear-based, test-based battlefields, when they could so easily be organized to encourage the heretical thought we so badly need. So, is it any surprise that people have learned to fit in, do the standardized test, keep heads down, and obey instructions? Decades of school have drilled that into us—fear, fear, and more fear. Fear of getting a D-minus. Fear of not getting a job right out of school. Fear of not fitting in.
Seth goes on to say that we should be teaching two things in schools:
1. Problem Solving
He then frames these by adding “It’s far more useful [in life and work] to be able to answer the kind of question for which using Google won’t help. Questions like, “What should I do next?” Working without a map involves both vision and the willingness to do something about what you see."