I’ve been following Seth Godin’s blog for a long time now, and I’ve got a copy of his latest book which I’m trying to set aside the time to read. But yesterday he posted something that tied in to what I’d been discussing here for a while, in a post entitled Accepting Limits.
It’s absurd to look at a three year old toddler and say, “this kid can’t read or do math or even string together a coherent paragraph. He’s a dolt and he’s never going to amount to anything.” No, we don’t say that because we know we can teach and motivate and cajole the typical kid to be able to do all of these things.
Why is it okay, then, to look at a teenager and say, “this kid will never be a leader, never run a significant organization, never save a life, never inspire or create…”
Just because it’s difficult to grade doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be taught.
This is a video that my mother, who works in children’s television, sent me a little while ago. She found it exceedingly powerful, as did I.
I was a bright kid, but I was never exactly a straight-A student. In kindergarden I took some standardized tests, and scored in the “highly gifted” bracket. When my parents received my test results they asked for advice on what to do—whether I should transfer to a new school, etc. The test administrators gave my parents what they later told me was the best advice they ever received about education, and that was this: “No one has any idea what to do with highly gifted students. The educational system as it is now is designed to accomodate people who are average. People may tell you that they know what is best for your child, but no one knows for sure. Ultimately, you have to make the choices that you think are best for your child.”
I barely squeaked by in my high school classes with Cs and the occasional D—mostly because I wasn’t doing the homework. I had to make up a class in summer school every year, from 8th grade through 12th. In my junior year I went to see the school psychologist, who recommended that I be tested for ADD. I was whisked away to take a series of tests with a man named Dr. Colegrove, who I remember fondly to this day. When he was finished, he wrote up a report to send back to my parent’s saying basically, “Casey doesn’t have ADD—he’s just really bored.”
When I graduated high school I attended community college for a year and a half, took a very intense six month course to become a recording engineer, and then went to work. I bounced around the workplace trying to find the job that was right for me, and finally was lucky enough to be hired at my current company when I had basically no relevant experience (except for being a WoW player, which we have learned is more experience than it seems). Now I’m taking classes online for a BA in Marketing, and eagerly awaiting the day when all these general eds are finished so I can learn something interesting.
In the whole of my life I have never found anything in the American educational system that did not come from the determined, singular effort of either myself—to make my own learning—or the handful of brilliant teachers who were willing to break free of the “educational system” and engage me.
And why would I? I was just like every other kid. I would much rather be playing games.
Games are proving themselves to be the best way to teach, motivate and cajole the average teenager into doing something. Let’s make games that teach them to be leaders, to run organizations, to inspire, to create, and to save lives.