Creating Independent Thinkers

Posted by Lisa Brady on 9/26/2016

I think it is safe to say that most of us admire creativity?

Although I am not one to spend a lot of time at events such as craft fairs, when I do have a chance to meander through one, I can hardly believe how clever some people are. I am amazed at the things that some people think of.

Does it start me thinking about originality and how we can create the conditions that support innovative ideas and independent thinking in schools? You bet.

In January, the Dobbs Ferry Schools’ Board of Education will be hosting a book chat with our parents and community to discuss Adam Grant’s new book, Originals - How Non-Conformists Move the World.

Grant wrote an interesting essay in the New York Times Sunday Review last year, How to Raise a Creative Child. Step One: Back Off  In his essay, he notes that “Child prodigies rarely become adult geniuses who change the world. We assume that they must lack the social and emotional skills to function in society. When you look at the evidence, though, this explanation doesn’t suffice: Less than a quarter of gifted children suffer from social and emotional problems. A vast majority are well adjusted — as winning at a cocktail party as in the spelling bee.

What holds them back is that they don’t learn to be original. They strive to earn the approval of their parents and the admiration of their teachers. But as they perform in Carnegie Hall and become chess champions, something unexpected happens: Practice makes perfect, but it doesn’t make new.”

Getting back to the craft fair, it makes me wonder   …… what if all kids ever learn or value in school is how to “follow the directions” or “follow the recipe?” That crafts fair would be pretty homogenous and boring.

I hear too many students asking questions like …. Is this going to be on the test? Or “What do I need to do to get an “A”? These queries should disturb teachers and disturb parents. And for the record, parents need to stop asking these questions too.

A “perspective” shift is in order in our schools. Societally, non-conformists are the “thorn in our sides” ….  the people who ask the annoying questions …. the rule breakers … those who are “marching to their own drum.” They are often the students who are the most imaginative and inventive.

In Dobbs Ferry, our vision is to create “Independent thinkers prepared to change the world.” Let’s understand the intersection of non-conformity with independent thinking so that we create and support more kids prepared to change the world.