The mind of a human child is a miracle of creation. It not only absorbs everything around it like a sponge but also learns to relate with it. It masters how to use and control the body which it inhabits. It forms patterns and associations even from the most abstract stimuli and it learns a whole language by age 3 in fact in multilingual homes it learns more than 1 language. Think about it – if you and I were to learn 2 languages simultaneously how long would it take?
Children can look at the most ordinary object and create a whole new function around it – a spoon becomes a magic wand or gun, a pillow becomes a ship and a chair becomes the space shuttle. Their minds are free to associate and their thoughts uncensored. They are not worried about what anyone will think of them – they are intrepid explorers out to discover the world around them.
Armed with this zest and natural ability children go to schools. And they learn for the first time that there is such a thing as a ‘wrong answer’. Very quickly the censors are developed and they learn that the definition of ‘right’ is whatever the teacher wants to hear. Soon this miracle of creativity starts to conform. The next 15 years or so while the child goes through school and then college are spent in systematically un-learning what was natural – creativity, and acquiring that which was unnatural – a fear of making mistakes.
This now grown up person then enters the work force and their organization hires someone like me to teach them a course on ‘Creativity’. How ironic is that? The very skill which we deconstructed piece-by-piece over decades now becomes a necessity for their professional development. Think ‘out-of-the-box’ is the new mantra these bewildered young people hear constantly at work. One wonders if this was the desired outcome then why was the entire process leading up to this point going in the opposite direction?
To learn is to make mistakes and to innovate and invent requires both mistakes as well as wastage. But from early on we teach kids that both these things are wrong and intolerable. So armed with this fear of making mistakes they go to work where their boss expects strokes of brilliance from them but does not tolerate any deviations. What a hypocrisy their lives become – on one hand they are taught that “to err is human..” and on the other they are expected to work like angels who make no mistakes at all. How can we expect these people to create new solutions and be innovative? Conformists do not create new worlds - that is the domain of the mavericks who dream and have the courage to act on them. But in our society non-conformists are people who need to be 'fixed'. If they do not think like the others, if they do not behave like the others, if they do not have the same aspirations as the others then something must be wrong with them. After all the majority of the people can't be wrong so it stands to reason that the ones who are different must be in the fault. That's the concept of democracy gone mad!
There is no denying that the majority of our children have no access to schools and even being in school does not give them an access to education. But even in the small percentile where they have access to both schools and education the question remains what are we teaching them? Is literacy the be all and end all of education or are life skills just as important? We teach them that to dream is good but we also teach them that importance of ground realities. No wonder when you ask any young person their goals and ambitions they will spout lofty and noble aspirations, but study their body language and you will know that this is just lip service, they don't really believe in their ability to deliver them. Its not their fault, they didn't start this way but as a society we went all out to trim them to comply with our views. We are stuck in the Victorian age where we like gardens to be lined with topiaries, but you know what? Nothing beats the beauty of a natural forest.