Maintaining A Youthful Outlook
Two striking features of healthy children are a curious inquisitiveness and a sense of playfulness. Young kids are always asking questions. Ordinary preschool children ask about 100 questions per day. But then something tragic often happens soon after a child starts school.
This is one of the tragedies of modern schooling and child-raising. Children who go to conventional schools too often have almost all the inquisitiveness stamped out of them. A conscious schooltime suppression of inquisitiveness in children makes them old and dull before their time.
The Problems of the Future Require People Who Can Ask the Right Questions
Solving problems in the real world is altogether different from scoring points on multiple choice exams in school. Improvisational problem-solving facilitated by asking the right questions makes a worker or an entrepreneur far more valuable and sought after in the real world — especially in a world of accelerating change where novel problems are always appearing.
The world and workplace of the future will demand that its workers and entrepreneurs be observant, nimble, and able to anticipate important trends and changes that are likely to take place. If children and youth never learn to ask the important questions about things and events happening around them, they will be lost and at the mercy of prevailing powers.
Sadly, too many children are discouraged from active engagement and the asking of questions by school systems that are more concerned with generating numbers for government departments, rather than producing healthy and inquisitive young people who can think for themselves.
The graph above from a Gallup study reveals the steady decline in student engagement over time. This says more about teaching methods in conventional schools than it does about the students themselves.
Along with Inquisitiveness, A Sense of Playfulness is Indispensable
Play is central to the learning processes of very young children. And even as children grow older, play is a key component to learning foundational skills and for developing latent talents. Active play allows children to think outside the box and ask “what if?” questions which open new worlds of thinking.
New Generations of Youth Lack a Healthy Playfulness
The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena discovered that recent engineering hires who were meant to replace older engineers who were retiring, did not know how to solve basic engineering problems with which they were confronted on the job. After investigating the reasons for this disturbing shortcoming of new engineers, they discovered something important about the type of engineers they needed to hire:
The JPL managers went back to look at their … retiring engineers… They found that in their youth, their older, problem-solving employees had taken apart clocks to see how they worked, or made soapbox derby racers, or built hi-fi stereos, or fixed appliances. The younger engineering school graduates who had also done these things, who had played with their hands, were adept at the kind of problem solving that management sought. Those that hadn’t, generally were not. __ From “Play” by Stuart Brown MD with Christopher Vaughan
The same problem with new hires and recent graduates is being seen in workplaces across the US as young people who were never given the experience of creative play and tinkering are hitting the workplace. People who developed the skills of improvising and tinkering in their youth will never forget these playful forms of problem-solving. Those who passed through their youthful years without developing these skills are at a serious practical disadvantage in a world of accelerating change, with newer unconventional problems popping up regularly.
[Nate] Jones ran a machine shop that specialized in precision racing and Formula One tires, and he had noticed that many of the new kids coming to work in the shop were … not able to problem solve… After questioning the new kids and older employees, Jones found that those who had worked and played with their hands as they were growing up were able to “see solutions” that those who hadn’t worked with their hands could not. __ Play
We know that children pass through windows of sensitive neurological development as they grow older. If certain “connections” in the brain are not made during these sensitive periods of development, it will be more difficult — if not impossible — for many of these young people to make these important connections when they are older.
Asking the Right Questions Meshes with Skillful Improvisation
If humans grow up mastering the skills of playful improvisation and focused inquisitiveness, their minds will be continually “reset” and renewed, in contrast to the masses of people whose minds begin to atrophy soon after starting school — and continue sliding downward into mindless conformity the further their education takes them.
Children and youth who develop the skills of asking good questions combined with competent and playful improvisation will find themselves in demand. And if these youth and young adults have also learned how to manage their finances, they are likely to eventually find themselves reasonable well off financially.
Dangerous Children, for example, learn to master at least three means of financial independence by the age of 18 years. Besides having multiple skills that are sought after in the marketplace, they have also learned to manage the finances of a household and of multiple small businesses by that same early age. Where they go from there is entirely up to them.
But that is just the beginning of what makes Dangerous Children skilled and nimble in this world or virtually any other human world. It is never too late for a Dangerous Childhood, but the sooner begun, the better.
More information on questions, and play:
The above posting was adapted from an earlier article in The Dangerous Child blog.