News Herald – Juliann Talkington
U.S. children are less creative than they were 30 years ago. Many people attribute this decline in inventiveness to over-scheduling of organized activities and emphasis on high-stakes testing and rote learning. These factors may be part of the reason children are unimaginative, but minimal exposure to “failure” and limited life experiences also keep U.S. kids from reaching their full creative potential.
To create, a person must be comfortable “failing” because “trial and error” is part of the innovative process. Many U.S. children are uncomfortable with “failure” because they have little exposure to it. In many cases, well-intentioned parents shield their kids from life’s tough lessons, because it is easier to solve problems for their children than to spend the time and energy necessary to help their children learn how to solve problems on their own.
Among other things, parents negotiate with coaches to get their children places on the best teams rather than encouraging their kids to work hard and talk with the coaches themselves. Parents talk with principals to negotiate grades rather than forcing their children to take responsibility for their performance. Too frequently, parents complain about “bullying” when another kid says something unkind on the playground rather than teaching their children how to overcome negativity.
As a result, the first thing parents need to do is set expectations and let their children learn by doing. This requires letting go and being available to coach as their children work to recover from life’s setbacks. Through this process children learn that there are consequences to actions, “failure” is a part of life, and success requires perseverance. Specifically, when things don’t work perfectly the first time, one can make adjustments until “failure” becomes “success”.
Another problem is parents are so worried about safety, that kids are isolated. This means children often lack the exposure required to come up with innovative solutions to a problem. Parents can easily address this issue by encouraging their children to take on activities outside of their peer group. Simple undertakings like participating in discussions with adults, welcoming a foreign exchange student, attending a history lecture, teaching a class, volunteering at the hospital, or working on a special project for a politician, all help broaden exposure.
Once children know how to recover from “failure” and have a broad understanding of how the world works, they should have the skills and the self-confidence to innovate.
The Scientific American – Sara Whitlock
“My story has a happy ending—at least to me. Through stress eating, meltdowns, and support from my professor and older students, I studied my way to an A-minus in that calculus class. But, even better: I learned how to fail, something I keep learning and relearning as I come to the end of my second semester in graduate school. It’s the fundamental underpinning of scientific resilience—failing repeatedly, and picking yourself up to try again. It’s what I think is missing from many young Americans’ educational experiences, and, in part, why I think so many of us, as smart and creative and technically adept as we are, shy away from scientific research as our careers. Learning resilience is fundamental to a successful career as a scientist. The experiments we try will fail many times before they work, whether as an undergraduate, a PhD student, or a postdoc gunning for a faculty position. I’m dealing with this right now in my third laboratory rotation: In trying to study a protein in zebrafish, I made a mistake and all my embryos died. So, I’m troubleshooting and doing the experiment again.”(more)
The Washington Post – Moriah Balingit and Donna St. George
“School districts in the Washington area and across the country are adopting grading practices that make it more difficult for students to flunk classes, that give students opportunities to retake exams or turn in late work, and that discourage or prohibit teachers from giving out zeroes. The policies have stirred debates about the purpose of issuing academic grades and whether they should be used to punish, motivate or purely represent what students have learned in class…Proponents of the changes say the new grading systems are more fair and end up being more conducive to learning, encouraging students to catch up when they fall behind rather than just giving up…But many are critical of the shift, arguing that teachers are losing important tools to enforce diligence and prepare students for college and the workplace.”(more)
KQED News Mind/Shift – Tara Haelle
“Is failure a positive opportunity to learn and grow, or is it a negative experience that hinders success? How parents answer that question has a big influence on how much children think they can improve their intelligence through hard work, a study says. “Parents are a really critical force in child development when you think about how motivation and mindsets develop,” says Kyla Haimovitz, a professor of psychology at Stanford University. She coauthored the study, published in Psychological Science with colleague Carol Dweck, who pioneered research on mindsets. “Parents have this powerful effect really early on and throughout childhood to send messages about what is failure, how to respond to it.” Although there’s been a lot of research on how these forces play out, relatively little looks at what parents can do to motivate their kids in school, Haimovitz says. This study begins filling that gap.”(more)
The Huffington Post – Blair King
“My wife is a school teacher who has taught elementary-aged children for the last 15 years. Since my wife is a teacher, I have spent countless hours listening to teachers tell their stories. This has caused me to recognize some things I would like to share with my fellow parents. We are doing a huge disservice to our kids. We are raising a generation of children who are going to be incapable of succeeding in the modern era. They are being taught to be egocentric and to give up, often before even trying. In this post I want to recount a number of lessons I have gleaned from contact with so many teachers over these last years.”(more)
Romper – Yvette Manes
“Parents want to protect their children from harm, danger, and disappointment. They want them to become successful adults without experiencing the negative aspects of growing up. They want to shield them from embarrassment, conflict, failure, and exclusion…The natural protection instinct a parent has toward a newborn can turn into a compulsion to safeguard them from anything perilous and all of life’s letdowns. But, this actually hinders your child’s future…coddled children turn into adults who have more health issues, are more susceptible to drug and alcohol addictions, have more difficulty maintaining relationships and financial stability, and are more likely to run into trouble with the law…Worried you’re holding on too tight to your little one? Or maybe not aware of it? The following are some clues you may be coddling your toddler.”(more)