We face a huge mixture, a huge mash-up of problems all at once.  Life is like that.  And there’s failure mixed in.  Success.  There’s the unknown, the uncertainty.  Neutrality.  Everything’s mixed in at once but we have the idea in education for some reason that we need to break everything down into discrete pieces and learn each part. Then somehow it will all assemble itself when we become adults. 

I’m finding that doesn’t work so well.  I think children have shown me now they can handle complex thinking.  They can handle complex problems.  They are already in their lives.  And when they go to school we ask them to turn off their cell phones, which happen to have the sum total of human knowledge in it.  But we say in schools, “You shouldn't have that in school.  You have to sit in this desk and you’re going to get the information from me, the instructor, and the methods I have in this limited room and limited time.”

I think we’re missing out on huge resources.  Not that technology is the answer but that the allowing of the possibilities and resources that students can bring to an activity.  And so complexity is simply a spur.  It’s an instigator.  It’s an excuse to critical and creative thinking. 

The more complex challenge you have, the more relationship matters, the depth of the relationship between the teachers and student.  That depth and that caring and quality of the relationship just builds such a firm foundation under students. Failure becomes immaterial.  Irrelevant.  It’s simply a part of this loving caring compassionate process of discovery and vision, visioning and envisioning that we have.

And so we feel safe.  We feel that we can do anything.  And we can try anything and we can achieve anything.  Because we’re in a protected environment where somebody loves us and cares about us and allows us to be who we really are, and respects who we really are and what we love and care about as children.

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

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