Replenish your imagination
Paula Poundstone, that stand-up comedian from the ‘90s with the short hair said , "Adults are always asking little kids what they want to be when they grow up because they're looking for ideas," not me. But, I find myself agreeing with it on more than a comedic level.
I was stuck for an idea for this week's column at first, which got me to start thinking about ideas in general. If you have ever tried to have a conversation with a child six or younger, you know they are an endless stream of nonsensical fantasy-type ideas. On Halloween, for example, a young cousin informed me, "Everyone has a ghost inside of them and that is what makes them move." These borderline creepy ideas seem to fizzle out and dissolve as we grow older, but why?
It could just come with experience — we live and learn and realize what can actually happen compared to what belongs in the fantasy section of the library. It could also be that we still have these thoughts inside our minds wanting to get out and be shared with the world — much like children who talk non-stop about their imaginary friends' and siblings' adventures. But society has successfully suppressed those ideas and taught us what is normal to say, what scripts we should follow and what will land us in the loony bin.
A majority of our imagination is quelled during our school career. Rote memorization, fill-in-the-blank tests and military-like procedures leave very little room for young minds to create and imagine. If they dare speak up, it is likely that punishment will follow for not following classroom rules. It is around fifth grade, coincidentally, that a middle school teacher told me she noticed students start to resent coming to school and see it as the enemy. Fifth grade is when much attention beings to turn to standardized testing.
Remember, if you will, the Grade Eight Proficiency Test — the GEPA. Weeks were spent preparing for this benchmark test, instead of focusing on the student's development as an individual learner. Some of us are lucky and have a teacher that Lifetime movies are made of, and "Good Will Hunting" is modeled after. There actually are teachers that challenge students to question what they read, to create their own solutions and to research new connections between material.
They are the exception to the rule, though. Ironically, those are the skills that most students will need to have in the new workplace we are entering. Imagination and, above all, fresh ideas will soon be the most valued skill when all information can be looked up with a few keystrokes. Students no longer need to memorize — they need to analyze. Their creativity should be encouraged as much as possible when it is at its highest, and ideas can be fostered, so when they enter the workplace, they can bring fresh ideas to an economy that is shifting into a new kind of service base.
The most heralded adults are those with great ideas. Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, E.E. Cummings and Benjamin Franklin are examples. These inventors of the new are products of an education system, but managed to maintain the belief that the world is not a scantron test, and it can be improved if the status-quo is questioned. They did not have to ask any younger siblings for career ideas, because they charged full-steam ahead to answering their own questions, and they kept imaging people being moved by ghosts.
Joanna Cirillo is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in journalism and media studies. Her column "So Fresh So Green" runs on alternate Fridays.