Education

The Potential of Potential

By Erin E.P. Morris

Allow me to introduce a new weekly post. On Fridays I want to sort of put something out there that is a bit of a ponderable for you to consider over the weekend…

So today I want to start with a question: Are we unintentionally standing in the way of progress?

This week a friend over at Soma Games sent me the link to a rather remarkable young man giving a recent TEDx talk. His name is Thomas Suarez and he is a 12 year old iPhone app developer. After watching the video one overriding thing strikes me about Thomas, sure he is articulate, creative, and driven, but he is likely not unique. He has found something he is passionate about, and he has been lucky to have never been told he needed to wait until he grew up to pursue what he loved- (either that or he didn’t listen.)

I am excited that Thomas is out there actively pursuing and advocating for something he loves. But for every Thomas (or Birke, or Adora, or Sirena) how many are being stymied by our own perceptions of childhood vs. adulthood and artificially assigned value of the two?

Are we allowing preconceived notions to prevent us to see untapped potential? How often have we overlooked talent for the lack of experience?

Do we further push this limitation when we ask kids what they want to be “when they grow up”? What if instead we asked our students who do you want to be? If they consider instead who they as a person want to be, not only can they focus on the now, there is an adjustment away from the affected importance of career, and help students develop a more valuable self worth rooted in who they are, not what they do.

If 16 year old Steve Jobs had been told the development of personal computers would require an adult with a PhD in computer science, what would the world have missed out on?

And if Bill Gates and his cronies had been reprimanded and turned down by CCC when they asked to find bugs, what if they had been told that computer security (a non-existent field at the time) belonged to the adults?

Would we have the Microsoft or Apple of today?

These are just two tech specific examples, if you want another; nothing beats the five year old composer. But the question remains: Is what we are doing in the classroom, or how we are interacting with our youth having a negative effect on their creativity and self-efficacy? Are we standing in the way of a young person building what they need to build, and being a part of today instead of waiting to be a part of tomorrow?

I leave you in Thomas’ thoughtful hands….

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