The other night we were sitting around the dinner table and having a discussion about whether college keeps you "in the box" and whether not going may encourage more creative thinking "outside the box" and lead to creation of ideas rather than insertion of ideas. I do want my kids to go to college for the experience and for the opportunities it can point them towards. I want them to be exposed to many ideas as long as they don't lose sight of their own. We discussed examples of people who became successful without a college degree, often by thinking outside the box and also the merits of making the box work for you without sacrificing your integrity or individualism and also the financial aspects when making a choice for, or against college. There is a very interesting article about that here washingtonpost.com .
What is best? Our school systems are "in a box" for the most part due to necessity. Funds and manpower can only be stretched so far. There are programs in some places that offer more individualized learning but they are not the norm. Should we all just sit quietly listening to the same tune over and over, then all pop up at the same time like Jacks in a box? Like a perfectly reproduced pop tart? In order to keep things functioning and compete in the world shouldn't everyone be prepared in the same way? Or should we all follow only a course that feels natural to us? That brings us fulfillment. What would happen to the world? To commerce? To service and government? What if we all decided to become ballet dancers? I have mixed feelings about this. I think it is really important to nurture natural gifts and talents and offer opportunities to those who wish to become skilled no matter what their area of interest. At the same time I worry very much about my children being able to compete for plain old survival in the real world.
My kids were in a gifted program through elementary school that was a part time, two day a week creative thinking/experimental environment type of class. In middle school the gifted program switched to merely an academic performance machine. Ready to turn out highly efficient workers that would proceed to Advanced Placement courses in high school and be college bound and credited before graduation. One of Middlest life long friends just skipped his senior year. It is cutthroat to get in state college. My girls aren't cutthroat kind of people. Well except Biggest if you make her mad enough but..beside the point.
When Biggest was a child she felt secure in this box. She liked knowing what was expected of her and enjoyed the challenge of "measuring up". She never came out of that box unless she was sure the song was complete and she would shine in the light. She conscientiously strove to meet or beat the criteria and come out on top. She thrived in a systematic learning environment until she died in it. When she couldn't meet her own expectations. When she began to be suffocated in the box she busted out with a bazooka. Unfortunately she blasted a hole in the bottom and fell into a black box. Full of monsters. When we reached in to pull her out she slapped our hands away. She had to bounce off the walls and fight her way through it herself. She found the ladder and came out battered, bruised and behind, but alive. She is just now awakening completely to the possibilities she may have by-passed. She has been outside the box for a long time and quite honestly has done well for herself but with great self awareness she is ready to face it again with the strength to use it to her advantage and not be used up by it.
I think Middlest was conceived outside the box like an ectopic pregnancy on the womb of standardized learning. She has been doing her own thing since day one. She is more like a Jack who escaped on it's spring and bounces from one wall to another constantly springing in a new direction. When she wants to learn she immerses herself and then moves on and has no interest in repeating herself. Year after year I have the same reports. When she does her work she does great work. The problem has always been that she is reading, writing or drawing instead of doing her work. She only does what she wants to do. She is inflexible. Common sense would say that this child could breeze her way to a teaching degree specializing in reading. The experts say that this is a highly needed profession and a good choice for the future. She wants to be an artist. She is very good. Will her creativity feed her? It's hard to say. Will college allow her creativity to flourish or stifle it? Will she be splashed across galleries someday or in a box designing a shoe box so that she can eat? Will it make her legitimate? Should she skip college and set up shop on a street corner? Will she have to hold up a sign saying, "Will paint you for food?" Littlest could stand next to her with one that says, "Will insult you for food."
I seriously don't know. And at this point, if she doesn't pray for the gift to speak in tongues, Middlest may be in danger of not graduating in time because of German. Who does that happen to? Why did she even take German, which would come in handy to be a Lutheran minister ( We are LCMS so only men allowed), an opera singer ( she can't carry a tune) or maybe work at Epcot? Though she once expressed an interest in working at Disney- as a Disney Princess. The kind that only ride the floats and waves so that singing wasn't required....anyway...so why German instead of Spanish or French like 98% of her class. Well, because Spanish and French are taken by 98% of the class...and ...well...there you go....
So far Littlest has been the one best able to balance. She can climb in and out of the box at will. When the tune finishes what pops out depends on what the tune was. When necessary she is diligent about conforming to expected standards. She likes to know the rules so that she can follow them to the letter. She wants everything pointed out in minute detail so that she does not vary from the correct course. She does not like it. She finds it boring and pointless and complains about it endlessly but she does it. At the same time, when it comes to her free time and personal thought she not only gets outside the box, she twists the lines to the extreme. She is more "out there" than any of us which in some ways makes her the most "well rounded".
Which is why when we were talking about "the box" she stayed relatively quiet while the SeaMonkey discussed the truth that higher education is not always requisite to success and Middlest espoused the benefits of going against the grain until a pause in the conversation left Littlest the opportunity to cheerfully pipe up in a moment of silence with
"I Think Inside The Circle"
Whereupon our intellectual conversation culminated with Middlest snorting milk out her nose.
So, I don't know. I want my kids to be able to thrive in the modern world and be self sufficient. But I want them to pop up to a tune they composed themselves.
Is this even possible?
Should schools strive to accommodate a variety of learning styles?
Or is it more important to be disciplined and 'standards' based to compete on a global scale?
Are some people more cut out to work their way up than learn their way out?
Or will my daughters end up in a creatively decorated Cardboard Box?
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