Naturally, Adults Are Trying to Stop Them

This news article published yesterday:

Teenagers are running for governor in Kansas. Adults are trying to stop them

In a state where the youth voting rate is even worse than the dismal national average, more than half a dozen Kansas teens are running for statewide office in 2018 — a sort of viral movement against apathy that could, in theory, make a high school student governor.

Naturally, adults are trying to stop it.

Naturally. Because that’s what adults do. Squash the ideas of our youth that do not fall in line with the status quo.

George Couros,  in a presentation to parents, asked if any of their children want to be YouTubers when they grow up. As was expected, a few people made an audible scoff at the idea. And yet, people are doing it. In 2017, the average salary of the top 10 YouTubers was over $10 million a year. Entrepreneurial people who saw an avenue to create content that expresses their creativity have turned an outlet in to a source of income.

And now, teenagers in Kansas, after finding a loophole in the Kansas state laws, are running for Governor. Not because they want to make a mockery of the state, but because they know they have a voice worth hearing. Jack Bergeson, a 17 year old Junior,  explained his reasons for running in written testimony to the state legislature: “Allow me to clear up a misconception: I am not running for governor as a stunt, or a gag. I am running for governor because of the minimum wage worker that has to work three jobs just to get by. I am running because our education system has been lagging behind other states. I am running to get money out of politics. But most importantly, I am running to get as many people involved in politics as possible.”

Jack, and others like him, are looking for ways to make their voice heard. To fight against apathy. To make a difference. They are tired of living within the confines we have placed upon them by our systems, structures, and beliefs. They are ready to start building their own. And as educators, it is our moral duty to equip them with the skills they need to do so. What is the point of teaching facts, history, math, science, etc if they are not also taught how to create new knowledge, new experiences, new ideas and amplify those to the world?

desire-path-usability-600x600I agree with George when he says that we should be helping students find their path. There should be nothing “natural” about blocking their way. Especially not in education.

One day, I hope articles like this one will read: Naturally, adults are trying to help them pave the way.

Empathy: Are We Walking the Walk?

This morning on Twitter, Sam Patterson posted:

I responded, in the moment, with a quick tweet about the need for active listening and not just a passive head nod.

But then it got me thinking…

Why do we need to teach kids empathy? Research has shown that children develop empathy when about two years old. A two year old will see someone upset, and offer a teddy bear, or favorite blanket, to help console the person. Although the solution provided may not meet the needs of the upset person, for the two year old, it is a way to reach out and provide comfort.

Dr. Martin Hoffman, who researched empathy in children, said that it isn’t until around age 7 that children begin to really be able to “walk in someone’s shoes” and provide a response that is more appropriate to the situation. because they are learning how to see a situation from someone else’s point of view.

It’s in adolescence, Hoffman explains, that children can start thinking abstractly enough to understand the plight of others, such as homeless or or oppressed. Hoffman labels this stage comprehensive empathy and explains that it is at this point that children are first able to understand how the interplay of life’s experiences may color attitudes, feelings, and behaviors.

Ask (most) any parent or educator and they will tell you that empathy is an important trait for children to possess. “Of course we want our kids to care for others. How silly of you to ask!” wouldn’t be an unheard of response. And yet, research conducted at Harvard University showed that, while 96 percent of parents say they want to raise ethical, caring children, and cite the development of moral character as “very important, if not essential,” 80 percent of the youths surveyed reported that their parents “are more concerned about achievement or happiness than caring for others.” Sadly, the percentages were no different when students were asked what topped teacher concerns. Surveyed students were three times as likely to agree as disagree with the statement “My parents are prouder if I get good grades in my class than if I’m a caring community member in class and school.”

Why is there such a huge disconnect between the traits we think we value, and the values our children are actually being provided?

Could it be because the messages we send are stronger than the words we say?

When students see signs like the ones above that scream “I don’t care what your issues are, just do your work,” we are stripping the empathy away.

When we force compliance  on meaningless assignments in our quest for higher test scores, we are stripping the empathy away.

When we send students to the principal’s office without hearing “their side” of what happened, we are stripping the empathy away.

And when we hear a student speak, but don’t listen to what they’re saying, we are stripping the empathy away.

justice-scalia-quotes-on-religion-best-ideas-social-issues-international-day-for-compassion-and-empathy-only-go-so-farSo why do we need to teach students empathy? Because adults are the reason they are losing it in the first place.

Need tips on how to build empathy? via Teaching empathy: Evidence-based tips . Have others? Please share them below.


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Bringing the Invention Cycle to Design Thinking

Imagination leads to creativity.
Creativity leads to innovation.
Innovation leads to entrepreneurship.
~ Tina Seelig

Engaging in the Design Thinking process is a human-centered approach to creative problem solving. Regardless of what you call the stages of the process, or how you draw the progression, at its core is a belief that people can make the(ir) world a better place by engaging in divergent thinking practices. What is sometimes missing in the implementation of design thinking, especially in the classroom, is an understanding of how ideas develop and take shape. Enter Stanford University Professor Tina Seelig, who teaches a creativity course at Stanford, and her book Creativity Rules. 

1_pVd4Ieg64ETU6a_xzR5lNASeelig’s book focuses on the four components of the Invention Cycle: imagination, creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship. Imagination is envisioning things that do not exist. It requires engagement and the ability to envision alternatives. Creativity is applying imagination to address a challenge. Creativity requires motivation and experimentation to address a challenge. Innovation is applying creativity to generate unique solutions through focusing and reframing to generate unique solutions. And Entrepreneurship, which requires persistence and the ability to inspire others, is applying innovation, scaling ideas, and thereby inspiring others’ imagination.

When considering the Invention Cycle, it’s important to understand how the four components build upon each other. As Seelig explains, imagination requires curiosity, engagement, and the ability to conceive of ideas in your mind. Creativity then fills a specific need and are manifest in the world. With creativity, new ideas only need to be new to the creator, and not the world. However, with innovation, the ideas are new to the world, not just the inventor. Therefore, the world must be looked at from a fresh perspective by challenging assumptions, reframing situations, and connecting ideas from disparate disciplines. Once the innovative idea is developed, it is entrepreneurship that brings the unique ideas to scale.

Because Design Thinking is focused on problem solving, and not selling a new product, entrepreneurship is not called out as part of the process, although it does fit in the test/feedback stage. Spencer and Juliani noted in Launch that marketing skills help students learn how to share their work with an authentic audience. Building on that principle. then, entrepreneurial skills teach students how to go beyond simply sharing the work and actually bring an idea to fruition. Seelig explains:

It’s a crime not to teach people to be entrepreneurial. We’re each responsible for building our own lives and for repairing the broader problems of the world. Skills related to innovation and entrepreneurship are the keys to seeing and seizing those opportunities. People should emerge from school with agency, feeling empowered to address the opportunities and challenges that await them.

According to thought leaders, the advances in technology are moving us towards an  imagination economy. This economy is defined as one in which “intuitive and creative thinking create economic value, after logical and rational thinking has been outsourced to other economies.” Looking at the Invention Cycle as a transparent layer atop the Design Thinking process, it becomes even more evident that we do our students a huge disservice if we do not provide meaningful ways for them to develop their imaginative, creative, innovative, and entrepreneurial skills. Like all soft (but critical!) skills, these can be developed and are critical to students (and their teachers), regardless of their career paths.

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