My 7-year-old daughter informed me happily a few days ago that her teacher had told her that if the school had an award category for “best thinker” she would get that award for her class. My daughter was of course happy about this and was consoled by the explanation that the school had no category for this type of award.
The available awards are awards for best behaved, super writer, super reader, best student awards and of course early bird- and this my daughter has cleverly informed me means nothing. Nothing? Yes, she says. It has nothing to do with your work in class. It’s for those whose parents bring them early to school. Very early. Some of these parents have to be at work very early and fortunately or should I say unfortunately, their children get to grab the early bird award for this feat.
This has got me thinking. I’m not so concerned about the early bird award. My daughter believes it means nothing. I’ve told her it’s a way for the school to instill a culture of punctuality in the children and she should be pleased if she gets one. This is actually beside the point.
I’ve been thinking about why a school won’t have an award category for best thinker. Since the early bird category is a way to instill a culture of punctuality, won’t a best thinker award instill a culture of thinking and great introspection?
What do these children need most as they grow gradually into the world of work?
What has set great men and women apart in times past? What has disrupted the world as we know it today? Why is there so much change everywhere that we struggle to keep up and barely do? There’s so much happening today, changing the way we transact business, the way we work and the way we live.
There’s the internet of things making it easier for manufacturers to understand the end user of their products and their behaviour, social media and messaging tools giving a platform to business men and women to sell their goods and meet buyers who may never have known they existed, new and improved technology making it easier for men and women to work from different locations and time zones, technology that can simulate the best classrooms and lab settings in the world.
Were these disruptions made possible by instilling a culture of good behaviour, punctuality, good handwriting or even good reading habits?
I don’t think so. This is not to say that the other awards do not have their merit. They surely do. But I am also certain that the future belongs to the thinkers. Those who will not be boxed into a corner and accept things as they are. Those who are bold enough to challenge what’s obtainable and create something unheard off. Something so outrageous that you must be on another level to even conceive it.
People have been doing this. The ones who have changed our world from inception have been the thinkers. People like Isaac Newton, Graham Bell, Martin Luther King and even Edward Deci.
Our educational systems have been built in such a way that the brightest ones with all the awards are at best a reflection of their teachers. Students in universities have learnt to replicate what they see and read, often regurgitating the mind of their lecturers to pass their exams. Will these children ever come into their own in such environments?
There’s been a lot of bold statements recently about successful entrepreneurs without a degree. The danger is not in getting the degree. The danger is how the system prepares children to follow rules, paint within the lines and become a certain kind of person prepared for a certain kind of profession.
The times have changed and it is time we made a change.
This is a message to all our educational institutions. It is time to build a new breed of people starting from their childhood. We must not just tell them about people who have changed the world. We must let them know that they can as well. It starts with opening up the mind, thinking and learning to challenge what they see, hear and know.
The future will belong only to these kind of people. It is time we made a change and I don’t see a better place to start this than in our schools. And maybe starting with an award for best thinker?
Dotun Ayeni, Chartered MCIPD, ACIPD
Principal Consultant at F316 Limited
Dotun lives in Lagos, Nigeria and is happily married with two children.