ThinkerWire’s Evening with Eva Fedderly: More Profiles
Schools across America are choking the creativity out of children and their futures. That’s the long and short of a recent article on this very topic in the WSJ by Eva Fedderly, a professor of Education and psychology at Oakland University, a school in Rochester, Michigan.
In it she points out that, right now, we’re in the midst of one of the first great postmodern liturgies, which is a cultural response to the sweeping and changeable and radically brief fact that the top-down pace of global education is waning, and modern young people’s role models are from a previous era. Fedderly sees teaching as a very vital part of society as it is changing. Students are less inclined to express their own selves and ideas and are “exposed to more and more over-sensitized” to the world and its complexities, her piece explains. It’s a win-win since today’s educators have some tools to help young people discover some independence and, in so doing, help discover what really makes them unique and what sets them apart from others.
As a head start in the right direction, Fedderly likes the teaching initiative hatched by Kwanzaa, a week of activities dedicated to communication between kids and adults. The idea of Kwanzaa comes from a long tradition in African American culture of celebrating a “journey” from childhood to adulthood and on to wisdom and inner peace.
Those holiday celebrations, which in recent years have spread to include school districts, require teachers to act like parents and kids like mini-adults, and remind students and teachers of the benefit of learning and raising awareness of human values. Fedderly finds it the most noble and promising in a sea of recent education ideas that call for more of a goal-oriented approach to education, which is tied to the “same values and visions” as most people of color have, and reminds us of the obligation “to help our children understand the world and become disciplined agents of change,” which includes being thoughtful consumers and leaders in various professions and causes.
According to Fedderly, the mass education focus that only students of color have been caught up in has been way too heavy on the work and overthought for much of our young people. Some of the solutions put forth by parents, schools, and communities fall under the banner of challenging students to be really skilled problem solvers, and enjoying the game (and learning through it). However, according to Fedderly, those approaches are not the ones needed right now. The culture of schools is not conducive to fostering independent thought in the way previous generations of young people were, and it’s not doing much for the movement toward truly independent thinkers.
She sees schools merely as a rat race and urges educators to get the curriculum in line with the needs of current students. Fedderly observes that the school is not a destination, but a series of shifting vectors that ultimately cause our children to graduate and move on and out.
Among the remedies Fedderly finds most promising are sharing knowledge and showing students how to use skills that are needed now in their “diverse” world. They are not merely assets for the learning experience, she sees them as universal and fundamental. She believes these are things that all students will have to learn, and will have to learn in different ways, so her piece suggests, at least at this time, that everyone needs to be included. She says students need to be told they’re free and they can make mistakes and learn from them. They need to know they can receive the wrong answer if they are curious and aren’t afraid to examine their thinking. Finally, she says school should “help students discover their own talents and hope for their future.”
It may surprise you to learn that the same premise of Fedderly’s is the very basis on which MindShift teaches its youth and adults “the Spirit of Creativity” to be highly independent, passionate, and adventurous.
More on MindShift’s work:
MindShift Gives Back with Exhibit
Commitment to Children’s Health: The Largest Health Care Gap
ThinkerWire’s Evening with Eva Fedderly