I have been thinking about the saying that “Life is an Improv”. A colleague of mine who teaches improv said this to me the other day and I thought it was poignent. It seems to me the Finish have embraced this idea and given children the chance to prove it, the chance to step up and think for themselves instead of being put in the box of a system that doesn’t promote creativity or discovery.
I also read an article recently that talked about how to raise smart children. This family had two sons who excelled greatly in the field of science, which is a subject that is all about wonder and questions. The parents in this article said that they helped their children less. The let their children struggle with a problem, one specific problem at a time, and allowed their sons the time to work the problem out. On top of that they would seek out challenges for them that would allow them to improve their problem solving skills. I was impressed with the parents discipline not to hover and handle problems for their children. I can only imagine how hard it is for a parent to see their child struggling with something and not automatically jump in to help, but if we want our children to really learn, I think this is what we need to do, help less.
I feel like these two examples go hand in hand. I am sure there are some genetics involved in either case. Finland has a homogeneous population that speaks the same language, and the parents of these two kids are both pretty well educated people, which always helps.
That said I think we have to be thinking about ways to get kids to seek out answers, not grades. The hard part is that our pinnacle of education, and our doorway to the job market, lies in a University system that largely starts by looking at GPA and then the student. I believe when the Universities start to look at the student (recommendations first, maybe interviews, etc.) and consider GPA last, we can change the way we think about class in the levels below college. In meanwhile, lets be less helpful, and give kids more time with problems that inspire imagination and creativity. For ideas on problems like these see: Dan Myer’s Blog.