Friday, September 19, 2014

What do Pablo Picasso, Mick Fleetwood, and (maybe) your child have in common?

Last summer, my husband and I had a long car trip and rather than listening to 12 hours of radio, we took a break and listened to a few TED talks.  If you are not familiar with these, TED was started in 1984 as a way to spread ideas about Technology, Entertainment and Design.  It's website lists it as a platform for spreading ideas in short powerful talks that are 18 minutes or less.  TED

One of the talks that stuck with me that day was by Sir Kenneth Robinson on Education.  Video of Robinson's talk I couldn't recite the entire speech, but some of his key ideas stuck with me.  So much so that 4 months later on a phone conversation with a close friend about her children's different learning styles, I found myself recounting his story about Gillian Lynn, the famous choreographer.  Later that day, I was on Amazon ordering his book The Element .  And since that book arrived, I have found the content to be the topic of conversation with my children and husband on a daily basis.  Enough that I felt like sharing…

In short, Dr. Robinson begins by discussing how our current education system only feeds a certain type of brain, a certain type of student, and misses the mark on creativity.  He gives countless examples of highly successful creative people that were not nurtured in the traditional educational parameters.  The stories are amazing, and heartbreaking.  He describes a little girl whose school(and perhaps parents) think she has learning disabilities that would require her to go to a special school.  He describes a young man that envisions his adult life working in a tire store so that he can write stories and draw pictures at home on the weekends.  And he describes a teenager so frustrated that he leaves the school building to sit outside under a tree and pray to God to get him out of this place.  As a parent, this is the real eye opener.  These kids could make good grades…they just hated it.  And because someone along the way gave them a chance to use their talent, once that passion was encouraged, they were able to work hard and put in the time needed to become GREAT.  I am not going to spoil the book but the young man under that tree was Mick Fleetwood(later of the band Fleetwood Mac) and if you don't believe he needed to be drumming, not Algebra, then spend an awesome 5 minutes enjoying this Tusk video

Six decades prior to Mick Fleetwood's agonizing school experience, another creative genius was plugging his way through a miserable bout with the education system in Spain.  Pablo Picasso is quoted on as being sent to sit in the "calaboose", a whitewashed bare cell with only a bench to sit on for being a "bad student".  He remembers taking a pencil and notepad and drawing during this confinement and remembered later that he "could've stayed in there all day".  Luckily for Picasso, his mother had detected his drive and determination early on and told him, "If you become a soldier, you'll be a general.  If you become a monk you'll end up as the pope." In an interview he declared, "Instead I became a painter and wound up as Picasso."  In short, he became who he was supposed to be.  He found the point where his passion met his aptitude and because that was who he innately was destined to be, he spent the rest of his life painting prolifically and challenging the boundaries of art as we know it.

Wow!  To be that parent that sees that their child is gifted beyond what we take for granted! To have the nerve to send a 16 year old to London to play the drums or to celebrate the little artist sitting in the calaboose!  I am not advocating throwing away the current education system as we know it but I am advocating the celebration of those kids who do not fit in the one tiny little box that society has allowed to be "acceptable".   I had a conversation just last week with a friend who told me that she wanted to be an interior designer when she grew up.  Her father told her that if she was going to college she needed a real major.  She became an accountant and described her 10 years working as an accountant as feeling like "someone was pulling her fingernails out".  When she was first married and moved into her first little house, her father came to visit and complimented her on her great decor literally saying, "You should do this for a living!"  Wow again!!

I am advocating listening and observing and hopefully celebrating your child's talents and differences.  As parents we have daily opportunities to guide our children.  One of my greatest fears is that I, in all my well-intentioned parenting, manage to miss that "a-ha" moment.

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