Thursday, August 5, 2010

four little words...

I came across this post on one of my favorite blogs, SuperForest, a little over a month ago and it has been nagging at my brain a little bit every day:

Sir Ken Robinson Revisited: Bring On The Learning Revolution

The speaker is Sir Ken Robinson, an author, educator, and innovation/creativity specialist. He has some really valid points on our education system, but for this post I am more focused on what he says about stifling kids’ creativity. His speech is fantastic, but the key part that sticks with me is the comment he makes about how as kids grow our education system teaches them to be afraid to be wrong, which basically halts their creative growth. Those four words have been spinning around my head ever since: afraid…to…be…wrong…

Essentially, this means that kids are taught that the most important thing is to be right, and this smothers their natural creativity. But the idea of this fear seems to go beyond that, and is so applicable to our lives in so many ways- and not just for kids, but for all of us.

Maybe it is something different for each of us, but to me, being afraid to be wrong also means being afraid to admit I don't know, or being afraid to appear foolish- there are a lot of applications that all have to do with ego. It reminds me of all the times I have sat in class thinking I know the answer or have something to add, but was too afraid that I might get it wrong to say anything. It also means being afraid to be different, or being afraid to stand out. How much of our lives to do we live, even subconsciously, bending to the will of the accepted mass culture? I believe we all have the freedom and right to be whomever we want to, exclusive of judgment.

I think because my son is quickly approaching his teen years I may be a little more sensitive to this idea, because I can see him lose some of the ways younger kids just throw themselves into things and I don’t want to see his choices smothered by inhibition . Trial and error, learning from our mistakes, laughing at ourselves- these are all things that we need in order to live a humble life, and as Sir Ken Robinson points out, it is also imperative in how we learn and develop.

With those four little words floating around my cerebral cortex, I have consciously gone out of my way to combat them. I’ll be honest; I don’t like to admit that I don’t know things. So now, when someone mentions something I am not familiar with, I ask them about it and I listen to the answer intently.

I vow that every time I have something to say I will push past the fear and say it.

I have tried my hardest to let go of being afraid to be wrong, and I am proud to say I think I am a better person for it. I feel more receptive as an adult and as a parent, and I am trying to impart the same knowledge on my son. I have talked to him about the idea and I think I live my life by a parenting credo that is supportive of his creativity and development- but a lot of this is pressure that he will feel at school and in our culture.

I am fortunate enough to say my family has always accepted me for who I am, but I have definitely felt pressure from the outside world. I believe that giving him a good foundation will give him the ability to grow into the person he really wants to be- supporting and encouraging him are the only ways I know to give him the freedom to be himself. This is a good reminder to myself to have patience with him while he learns, and that it is beneficial to let him do things his way. I will never push my son to be anything other than himself, and those four little words will always be there to remind me how important that is.


  1. Young children have the wildest imagination and are highly creative. Unfortunately, as they grow older and are taught to only color within the lines, and to use the correct colors, their imagination starts to drown. Some will resurface and maintain their creativity, and some will move on to other things in life.

  2. I thought this was amazing and super inspirational.

  3. My 6 year old hates being wrong, I can see it already. He is not a good loser at all. I do think it has a lot to do with everyone constantly prasing kids when they are right. Who doesn't love praise? I am actually working very hard to teach him its ok to lose and be wrong too, it's how we learn and grow. This is an on-going process and kind of goes against everything else we've taught him up to this point. Ah parenthood.

  4. Very insightful post. Your son is extremely lucky to have a parent like you.

  5. "I am fortunate enough to say my family has always accepted me for who I am" very lucky alot of families don't. Its obvious that you are a good parent

  6. Jamie is a great mom!

  7. I've taught High School and a few college classes and the one thing I learned is to never lie and say you know something you don't. It's much more of a learning opportunity to have a student find out an answer with you than it is for a teacher to make something up or be afraid of being wrong.