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Why we should be raising disruptive children

We should be raising disruptive kids

Disruption is simple in concept, harder in practice. Essentially, it means to throw into confusion or disorder, to break, interrupt or impede. Disruption also carries over into entrepreneurship and innovation in that one must be willing to challenge the status quo and risk something new in order to usher in a better way. Disruptors aren’t always obedient but they do drive growth, create, innovate and reorder the world. Schools aren’t supposed to be disruptive. That premise is wrong and schools should be crafting disruptive children.
In Victorian England children were expected to be seen, not heard. In the United States, Horace Mann modernized the American educational system by providing universal education based on the Prussian model. Uniform and obedient children were the goal.
Back when our economy was driven by agricultural and manufacturing workers, sitting kids in straight rows and teaching them memorization and yes/no answers made sense. Indeed, today biology is taught before chemistry and physics in our schools. Why? Because 100 years ago most children never graduated high school so didn’t complete the science programs thus since many became agricultural workers biology was more useful. Today, with scientific advances a good grounding in chemistry and physics helps in understanding biology.
Our schools don’t teach a real world application of knowledge, disruption or uncertainty. Lost in our uniform search for answers that don’t exist we’ve forgotten that in life we too often operate with incomplete or changing information, unpredictable people and constant change. Life is messy and those who can spot major patterns, trends and evolutions inside and outside industries can and do change the world.
We, as a society, should be raising disruptive children.
Children love to question, create and goof off (otherwise known as playing). All kids can tell a good story and make up their own song. Children instinctively grasp ambiguity and are willing to spend countless hours building something new. Moreover, now, with social media and the new ability to connect, being seen is a advantage. The skills that constituted literacy in the past no longer instill a competitive differentiator in our flattened, knowledge-based world.
A major problem today is that we can’t fully predict the future while the pace of change continues to accelerate. Our kids will need to know not professions but rather skills, adaptability and the ability to keep re-educating. Many of their jobs will be in industries that don’t even exist as they pass through the educational school system.
And our educational system has lost touch with the changes and evolution inherent in our actual world. It doesn’t educate for the future but rather to address the past. The current focus on testing, right answers and certain more “practical” subjects ignores the interrelationships among disciplines and the sophistication of real world problems and solutions. Kids are being taught to remember not think. Ask any Silicon Valley executive and he’ll tell you that computers always remember better than people but no computer can duplicate the complex thought processes of a human brain.
Life isn’t linear, nor is the human brain or much online search, so why do we keep emphasizing linear thinking and disciplines (math and science) without their compliments (philosophy and music)?
We need to be teaching disruption and focusing on questions (questioning) not merely answers. If a child grows up unable to figure out the right problems and questions what value attaches to a remembered answer that can always be found using Google anyway? We also need to be teaching the ability to start, create, adapt and innovate. Disruption is an active process and can be taught.
I recently completed the online Beta test class for Draper University, Tim Draper’s entrepreneurship school in San Mateo. Draper U takes slightly older kids who have shown ability and teaches them to embrace disruption and channel it to create something new that will improve the world. The same concepts will work for younger children.
Our educational system should be replaced with one that addresses learning needs for the modern world. Universal education became a right 100 years ago. The world has changed since then and a new version of learning should be embraced, if not by schools then by the parents and students most disadvantaged by our outdated school system. Increasingly our young people aren’t competitive and aren’t getting jobs, while disruptors are creating them.