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Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Outside the Box

What does that really mean?  Outside the box?  We use the expression all the time, normally when complimenting someone for an innovative idea.  We know that creative thinkers are in high demand.  We want our children to think creatively.  That is why we support arts in education.  But what box are they talking about?

It is not just the box of conformity or the box of the "same old same old".  Those boxes are just convenient and easy.  Anyone can be creative any time they want.  They can come up with a better mousetrap or a different way to do something.  The difficulty is in the level of comfort.  Just as our comfort foods are ones which remind us of the security of childhood, our boxes are safe.  If we act as we have always acted then we can predict the results.  We may not like the results but at least we know what they will be.  This is reflected in the aphorism "Better the devil you know than the one you don't."  The problem is that with this attitude you will always be stuck with the devil.  There is no chance to exchange it for a better result.

Einstein said that the surest sign of insanity was to do the same thing over and over and expect a different result.  If it didn't work the first time, it won't work the second or third.  So what does this have to do with education?  It is a personal reaction to the oft heard line "I survived public school, so my kids can, too."  That to me is a kind of insanity.  If school did not work for you, why would you ever inflict the same on your children?  Because it is known?! 

The largest impediment for people, beyond financial, putting their children into private school is this concept of stepping out of the box of the public school system.  There are accusations of elitism.  There is censure because you are implying criticism of a public institution.  There are warnings that you are permanently harming your child by not allowing them to experience public school.  That's right.  You are not allowing them to experience bullying, overcrowded classrooms, monotonous curriculum, a huge bureaucracy which will never even know the name of your child beyond a listing on a student record.  Yes, you can find good teachers.  Yes, there will be good experiences.  But if overall your child does not enjoy school, or even more hates it, then it is time to leave the comfortable failing box. 

Nothing is more important than our children.  They will be spending 14 years in some form of organized education.  Maybe it is time that we take a risk, check out the other options, and make sure that our children are happy.  How can we possibly raise self-confident, happy adults if we as parents are too scared to try something different?  They learn by imitation.  If we want a different result, then let's try a different path.  Is there really anything worse than a disillusioned unhappy child?  Especially when we do have options. 

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