“All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”
– P. Picasso
“When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing positive knowledge.”
– A. Einstein
Is it just my imagination or are children nowadays forced to be less like children? They have tons of homework, tutoring, less physical exercise, less time to simply play in the mud, and some eight hours a day jailed in schools, with little opportunity to speak or ask questions. They even have to wait to be called upon or until the end of class in order to go to the restroom – something most adults would not stand for.
As adolescents, they have to jump ever-higher obstacles in competing with each other in ways that are entirely designed by adults. Most creative endeavors that spring from their own minds are not rewarded. Rather, in order to “succeed” they need x-number of extracurricular activities, y-level grade point averages, or z-level SAT scores.
One article notes how competitive things have become for someone to make it into a top college. The people who are involved in the admissions process note that things are getting worse. The stress levels involved are unbelievable. The students that do get through admissions and into the classrooms are described as not “as much fun to teach.” “’They’re so afraid of failing or stepping out of line, that they’re not really good students.’” This latter statement sounds like one of the best ways to be uncreative.
Why this is going on is up for debate. The tone of the article seems to suggest that a lot of blame can be laid upon the admission’s committees. I am not so certain that they are the only ones culpable, though.
Rather, the overall societal view of children and adolescents may itself be dysfunctional.
The word “childish” for example is broadly used negatively in our society. It is certainly not used as a compliment. I would argue that this negative association passing through our culture like an unchecked parasite on the term of childishness might be an example of something that is damaging not only the youth of today, but our culture in general as well.
Many associate Play with children, as if it were something we “grow out of.”
But, what if Play is something that is not purely associated with childhood and that rather, rules, regulations, and adult-centric expectations of “success” are stamping creativity out of them? Rather than “teach” in terms of bestowing an arrogant knowledge upon them, adults could defer to their strength of creativity, attempting to foster and care for its growth as carefully as we would a garden.
Being “childish” is something that should be celebrated or commended, even. Adults who retain the child within their selves are often those that are most successful in the marketplace and in the adult world. They are the happiest with what they become and with the goals they choose for their lives.
When something is childish, we should consider it with awe and wonder. Childhood is the beginning of life. It is a time of power and energy. It is a time of growth and of creativity.
Creativity and growth seem somehow inextricable to me. If this is so, and we wish the best growth of our society, there needs to be an allowance for the greatest creative powerhouses we have – namely, children and adolescents. This does not mean we should allow kids to run for governmental office. Clearly, there are adult-centric rules in place for a functioning society.
What I am saying though, is that the curriculum of Play somehow feels lost.
The greatest artistic and scientific works and achievements seem the constructs of Play. From the soul of the human mind, by force of the divine or nature, the descriptions by which the great masters create their works denote their delivery via the conduit of Play.
Could it be that the trouble we are seeing with the kids of today is that so many adults have shed those aspects of their selves that are creative, playful, wondering, and awed because those traits are viewed as somehow childish and therefore negative?
These adults, therefore, are unable to see and therefore miss the greatness that kids see within their selves. These kids then decide that the greatness they see is merely an illusion of childhood and must mourn the loss to enter an adulthood devoid of a feeling that their impulses and inner strengths are any good, but rather must feel that they are oppositional monsters that cannot control themselves.
Those that can control themselves must strip away this ability to Play, this ability to be something that the adults are not, and this ability to bring something truly new to the world. Rather they are forced to conform by moderating their creativity to fit an adult world tolerant of only the smallest of changes.
To accommodate better, adults need to Play. If forgotten how, they need to learn to Play.
To communicate with a child, one must be a child – if only for a few moments a day. For an adult who has forgotten the child within, this attempt at Play takes practice. It takes time away from work. It takes time away from money. It takes time away from the television. It takes time to focus on the things that our own minds are capable of creating. It takes the practice of being awed and feeling wonder.
Towards this task, some may seek guidance of a friend, a family member, or a therapist. Some may be go entirely on their own.
I sometimes wonder if the explosion of myspace, youtube, and videogames are partially manifestations of a desperate thirst for Play and creativity. It would seem ironic then that schools ban the use of these rather than investigate and culture them as new havens of creativity.
But, this is precisely the point. As a society, we are in the process of losing, ignoring, and crushing Play wherever we find it.
The fact that some are noting degradation in the caliber of students and are willing to take some responsibility is commendable. But, I don’t think it is just in the admission’s process or even it’s direct or indirect effects. The responsibility may be on anyone who has forgotten, and more importantly, anyone who is unwilling to learn again how to be a child.