In his amazing TED Talk, entitled, "Do Schools Kill Creativity?", Sir Ken Robinson tells the story of going to see his son in the play A Nativity Scene. When the three wisemen appear (three costumed young boys), they deliver their lines with only the interpretation that youngsters can deliver. There are no 'rights' and no 'wrongs' - only point of view (I won't ruin it for you...you'll need to watch it for the punchline). Sir Robinson concludes, with (paraphrased):
Kids really aren't frightened of being wrong. Unfortunately, we stigmatize mistakes and give them that fear. And the problem is that if we aren't prepared to be wrong, we'll never come up with anything original. We are educating people right out of their creative capacities.
In my presentation about unleashing the creative beast in work teams, my first and most important point on creating a positive, creative space is to make a safe space...where there are no 'dumb answers'. But this level of trust takes a heckuvalotta time to achieve. Why? Well, we were taught that wrong is bad a long, long time ago. Wrong answers were met with no reward and, sometimes (often), punishment. And nobody wants to feel bad.
In addition to this we are also taught there is one right answer to almost every question. Even the most liberal curriculums have bias. What about POV? We are all well aware of the hordes of perspectives erased from historical recording. Science? It's experimentation where theories are taken as truth (until refuted by new theories, which are, then, seen as truth). Furthermore WHAT we choose to study and from WHICH ANGLE these things are studied is incredibly biased.
My son brought home an assignment on matter, where there were multiple choice answers. In one question, it asked which of the following is a characteristic of the molecular structure of a solid: a. the atoms are spaced far apart, b. the atoms do not vibrate, c. there are no atoms. From my recollection, all three were wrong. However, b. was the answer. A quick lookup in a science journal told me that the atoms do, in fact, move, but just not very much. I urged him to write a paragraph that refuted the answers and he looked at me in horror.
But the answers were all wrong! They were misinforming students, perhaps to simplify, but they were doing a disservice nonetheless. Tad didn't care too much. Not because he didn't care (because in the right instance, he would take a stand), it was because he knew he couldn't change it. There was one way to pass his class and a thousand ways to fail. He would rather just go with that one 'right' way.
Think about how, everyday, we have disagreements on individual POVs. Human relationships are riddled with them. Usually neither party is "right", but there is nothing in the known universe that could resolve the conflict based on "facts". The closest thing to the truth is that there is never one 'truth', only thousands of perspectives...even from those closest to the situation. It's the messiest thing in the world to unravel truths. Then, I wonder, how do we suppose that we can so certainly ascribe any particular set of 'standards' and 'answers' to learning? Why are we beating diversity and imagination and curiosity right out of the heads of our people?
So, it isn't really that our brains are broken. It's that the 'system' is broken (and I say system, because I can't think of a more accurate term right now).
We're a whole lot of square/triangle/oblong/octagon/hexagon/etc. pegs trying to fit into round holes. And some of us find it easier to 'fit' than others.
A friend of mine sent me a link to this page that reads:
You're going to the therapists because your parents know that you are not happy. You are not happy because you don't fit in. You don't fit in because you are not normal. So, if the therapist(s) can help you to be normal, everything will be all right.
Except for one problem.
You are not normal. There is something wrong with you. Your teachers know it. Your parents know it. Your brother and sister know it. All of the other kids know it - and they make sure that you know it, too. And how many therapists do they think it takes before you know that you are incurable. You may not be as smart as everybody thinks you are, but you're not stupid.
I encourage everyone to read it. Maybe you see a piece of yourself there. I know that, even as a high achiever, I did. The only difference is that I dealt with it differently, with defiance, with resentment and with defensiveness.
Now, I know what some of you may be thinking (or maybe I don't?): "If we don't have measurements, how can we expect to understand progress? Performance? Etc.?"
I don't know. Do we need to understand these things in 2-dimensions? It seems quite trite and externalized. It's forgetting the amazing intrinsic motivations we naturally possess.
As well, defining one 'right' is, naturally, going to favour SOMEONE. It would stand to reason that those who set those measurements have set them to favour themselves. Just like the writing of history. I've witnessed several painfully inaccurate POVs presented as 'truths' in my own experiences. Hegemony surrounds us in this system. A system that uses measurements that favour a few will perpetually be in power.
If we were to make a list of what we would 'lose' by removing standard measurements versus a list of what we could gain, I wonder what the outcome would be?