“I have spread my dreams under your feet;
tread softly because you tread on my dreams.”
~ W.B. Yeats
There is an interesting set of dynamics one can witness when seeing children at play. Generally, a natural leader rises up and organizes everyone together. They may not know each other, but they embrace teamwork, master communication, and encourage inclusion without fear. It is one of the few places anyone can find a fireman, paleontologist, and teacher working together to save the world from total domination by a one-eyed, two-horned mythical creature that can scale the monkey bars in a single bound. In this world, children can be whoever they want to be and most of all, they believe it.
Somewhere between reckless abandon and adulthood, the flame of children’s imagination, creativity, and aspirations slowly start to dwindle until one day all that is left are the charred remains of potential. For a few lucky ones, a tiny flame of hope continues to flicker and given the right opportunity and encouragement, these children discover their passion as adults and change the world.
Children embrace their dreams and all the wonder the world has to offer. However, somewhere along the way, wonder is slowly replaced with reality and transferred regret. As adults, we are seen as walking hypocrisies. When children are young, we encourage them to dream big, but as they mature and responsibilities increase, dream big often turns into dream real.
Governments, higher education, and the media focus on reforming education, increasing regulation, and fostering innovation. While these are all important areas that require discussion, we are missing the primary purpose of education…the students. Students are being forced into a funnel of who adults think they should be or what they should learn. Their dreams of becoming a paleontologist are considered frivolous and discounted as being irrelevant. Instead of working with students to support their dreams, we transfer misplaced expectations.
Each student is unique. They have individual talents, interests, and drive. While they may discover along the way that being a paleontologist is not their lifelong calling, as they believed it to be in third grade, they may discover something even greater. As adults we should be paving pathways for opportunities not building roadblocks to their success.
The world is constantly changing and as this continues, no one can predict the specific jobs or skills that will be needed for future generations. What we can do, is protect the dreams of children now so they can explore possibilities, discover their passions, and in turn, impact the world in a way we never could have imagined.
America is great because of its diversity, in all forms. Embracing diversity of people and ideas foster solutions, innovations, and opportunities. We limit the future when we carelessly minimize the potential and creativity of children. Education doesn’t need reform. Education needs to be reimagined. When we put students first, educational options and solutions create themselves.
“The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise—with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.”
~ Abraham Lincoln
What would you do if you believed you could?