An educated What-if too.

I received this reply to the most recent post “An Educated What if.” I started a response, but the post seemed to grow, until I realized that this must be a hot button issue for me. The following is the question from Donna Schmidt and my reply.

“I am preschool teacher, and I find this blog very intriguing. What if the public and private school system made “what ifing” part of their curriculum. Our country’s education system is losing ground every year because of funding. The first classes to be cut most often are the ones for creative thinking and expression. Creative thinking and the freedom to express is how we have acheived our greatness as a world leader. It seems to me that as we pulled away from the creative attributes in our education systems, we started loosing our standing as world innovators and became more concerned with being a ‘world power’. What I would like is some help integrating ‘what If’ in a preschool curriculum. I bet you could come up with some really cool ideas for 4-5 year olds. Thanks for trying and thanks for inspiring.”

My wife and I just watched a TED talk today that might interest you. Although Steve Keil is speaking to his fellow Bulgarians (in fluent English) I think that his message is important and applicable even to us in the US. In fact it may be even more poignant than we would like. The following quote is from the description of the talk on the TED site.

“At TEDxBG in Sofia, Steve Keil fights the ‘serious meme’ that has infected his home of Bulgaria and calls for a return to play to revitalize the economy, education and society. A sparkling talk with a universal message for people everywhere who are reinventing their workplaces, schools, lives.”

Check it out: TED talk about play by Steve Keil

Look at how successful the people who have implemented this philosophy have been. Look at Google and Pixar just to name two. We need to encourage creativity and play. We need to provide the tools and opportunities for our children to learn, without restricting them. I cannot count the times I have had to train new graduate students or post docs on free thinking or thinking outside the box. We spend so many years repressing those attributes that came naturally when we were children. How is it that we teach problem solving and innovation in preschool and graduate school but have this factory approach in between?

Because What-if-ing comes naturally to children, as a pre-school teacher, you are in a choice position to nurture this innate skill and to help it to develop and grow. Dare I say, even to learn the art of What-if-ing from them?

The following link is to a video from the Portland Children’s Museum which also runs a Reggio Emilia inspired early childhood program called the. Opal School

What if our schools were more like interactive children’s museums and Children were allowed to explore, create, dream, imagine and invent freely. What if adults shared their knowledge and wisdom, to help children do all of those things, but didn’t say how or what to do at each and every step in that journey? That is at the heart of the Reggio Emilia philosophy. Loris Malaguzzi was truly a What-ifer. His poem, One hundred languages of children, is moving and powerful. This video by The United Way Center for Excellence in Early Education has the poem in both English (at the beginning) and Spanish (at the end).

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An educated What-if

I ran across this article and it struck a cord. What if teaching were a lucrative career choice that would benefit both teacher and student alike? I could write of a few other systems that are antiquated (Post doctoral Research) but I will refrain and not detract from the well written words of Senator Bennet.

I love to hear when our politicians think outside the box and ask what if. The successful ones are able to start a movement and act on their what if. I am willing to support this what if and will be writing Senator Bennet to let him know. If you agree with him, you should let him know too. What-ifs have to start somewhere.

Sen. Michael Bennet
    U.S. Senator from Colorado

“Our ability to compete for the jobs of tomorrow depends, above all, on our capacity to educate children today. Yet we are still operating under yesterday’s system to attract and retain new, talented teachers. It is outdated and designed to fail.”

What if speed were guilt free?

I just realized while looking over my past posts that you might think my blog is only about cool charities. And while I do feel that people who start charities are noble whatifers I have to admit that many of our great whatifers were not charity workers. I mean where would we be without Henry Ford or without Wilbur and Orville Write. Although with any change, you have to take the good with the bad and our love affair with transportation has not come without a downside. Which leads me into pointing out the next whatifer of the week…the Tesla group.

I was just in SanJose for some training and they took us out to dinner in Santana Row. We had to walk around until our reservation time. I really don’t like window shopping and I care even less for malls. But I did find my salvation in the Tesla storefront.

tesla roadster rearview

Thanks to Tesla Motors for providing us with this beautiful car (I mean photo.)

Now that was something I could really spend sometime looking at. Beautiful yet simple style. I just wish they could have let me take it for a spin.

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What if you could be a part of a cure?

Some of the most inspirational people are patients or their families who are advocating for change in the form of more research, education or accessibility to treatment. Look at all the good, people have done. People like Lance Armstrong, Glenn Close and her sister, and Michel J Fox are some pretty successful whatifers. We need to support these great efforts. It’s easy to do.

You don’t have to even be a grown up much less a celebrity…

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what if patients didn’t have to stress out?

Too often, as researchers of human disease, we lose sight of the people we are trying to develop treatments for. This is not to say that many funding mechanisms and societies don’t do a good job with setting up interactions between researchers and patient advocates. Surprisingly enough, one of the best meetings I ever attended was a department of defense, breast cancer meeting. It is a long story as to how and why the DOD is funding breast cancer but they are doing a wonderful job. There were many patient advocates in attendance. They asked great questions, were very informed and their presence was an inspirational reminder of why we were doing what we were doing. I remember the constant request of patients not only for new cures but for treatments that improved quality of life.

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