Maybe that’s not the best way to title this post. But I don’t really care, because its how I feel.
I’ve always hated maths. From question sums in grade 3 to long division in grade 5, it’s always been my nemesis – sneaking marks away from me every year at school, preventing me from achieving the average I deserved, forcing me to think laterally, instead of the zig-zag, brightly coloured, round-about creative process my right brain usually uses. To put it bluntly, it was my least favourite lesson and I felt that maths was single handedly ruining my life, all the way up to Grade 12 when I was accepted to study graphic design, didn’t need it any more and dropped to an easier level – Maths Literacy.
I’m not going to tell you about some big epiphany that I had where I realized maths was super essential to my current career, or how I now understand why we need to use X and Y in algebra (Why are you using letters where there should be numbers? You’re confusing me. Is this
But I am going to tell you about an extremely interesting occurrence that is currently taking place in the world around us. The old left-brain thinking careers are very quickly falling to the way side and becoming second fiddle to the growing need for right-brain thinkers who can problem solve in a unique way.
Never before have we encountered the problems (good and bad) that we do now as a global community. We have voice controlled operating systems, 3D printing, automated flushing toilets, be closer to living on Mars than ever before and even self driving cars. It’s left brain thinkers who made these things physically possible. But they are also the ones who have made the biggest mistakes as they’ve been in control – global warming, mass poverty, over population on an unimaginable scale, famine, war for profit, ideological propaganda and alike. And while it might have been left brainers who got us here, it’s us right brainers who are going to be leading the way towards the next frontier. You cannot use the same thinking that got you into a mess to get you out of it.
Daniel H. Pink puts it best in his book ‘A Whole New Mind – Why Right-Brainers will Rule the Future‘ when he says, “The last few years have belonged to a certain kind of person – computer programmers, lawyers, MBAs. But the keys to the kingdom are changing hands, to a very different kind of person, with a very different kind of mind – creators and empathizers, pattern makers and meaning makers. These people – artists, inventors, designers, story tellers, caregivers, consolers, big picture thinkers – will now reap society’s richest rewards and share it’s greatest joys.”
Do you want more proof? Watch Cameron Herold’s Ted Talk entitled ‘Let’s raise kids to be entrepreneurs.‘ He explains that as children, our dreams, passions and visions are crushed by parents, teachers and a narrow minded education system that tells us we need to study harder or be more focused or get a tutor. Why do we get our children tutors in the subjects that they’re bad at, in stead of harnessing their talents at an early age? If they’re brilliant swimmers get them a swimming coach, if they are captivating public speakers get them onto a stage at any opportunity and if they can crunch numbers like a whizz kid, then for goodness sakes get them a rocket science maths tutor who’s gonna make their numerical dreams reach the stars. But don’t push them to be good at something that’s not their forte. I had numerous maths tutors, and to this day, I still suck at maths.
And if you are encouraging your child to pursue theoretical, logical thinking, left brain subjects against their talents and wishes, what you’re really encouraging them to do is to work for corporations. To be a mule. To be a number crunching, code creating, blind-to-opportunity blue collar worker who instead of being the spanner in the works, is literally going to grow up to be one of the cogs in the system of globalization that got us where we are today – a crumbled international economy, a nation of people bored with their jobs.
We’re grooming them to fall in line with rest of the world by encouraging them to be lawyers or doctors or engineers when they don’t fit the profile. I honestly believe that for every problem in the world, there is somebody who can solve it. But it’s not going to help much if the woman who’s going to significantly decrease human trafficking and bring about unbelievable change to tens of thousands of lives, is currently failing an accounting degree when she really wants to be a social worker.
Imagine if we could all choose what we do – from subjects to degrees, work experience to jobs? If each of us had the opportunity to become experts in our field – whether your field was pastries or sub-saharan tree toads or accountancy or design or working as a postman. Imagine if every single person was absolutely excited to be going to work every day? Not only would this create a society in which people would give brilliant service and work incredibly hard which would result in a thriving economy, but if they were passionate about service delivery, or whatever their profession entails, they would be in the right place to make fantastic changes and improvements to the current systems or products, from a position of knowledge because they love their jobs so much and know what they’re talking about as specialists in their field.
When you allow people to do what they love, they solve all sorts of problems for the population. To give an example, check out Phone Bloks a company who realized there was need for a phone worth keeping. Our current phones are not created to last, and are therefore piling up in our landfills as we toss them out. Cellphone companies can have a quicker turn around of profits if we need a new phone within a year. But Phone Bloks have solved the problem of customization and landfills, by coming up with an ingenious answer. Watch that Youtube video – it’s worth your time.
In the perfect society, we’d work together, us left and right brainers, as they have in the Phone Bloks project, to create solutions. Left brainers need the righties to come up with the crazy ideas, but the righty brainers need the leftists to tell them what’s feasible. But at the end of the day, what’s more important – the concept or the final outcome? Neither. One would be pointless without the other.
We shouldn’t allow an out of date definition of intelligence to control the way we think about ourselves, or about our children or our co-workers or bosses or anyone for that matter. Our understanding of intelligence is the concept of parrot learning – of reciting information and spewing it out methodically in the correct sequence. Well done, pat on the head for you if you can do it, but a gigantic step backwards for problem solving and unique thinking. We promote children to a higher grade for being able to colour inside the lines, and fail them when they don’t, or won’t. It’s not that they can’t – it’s that they see things differently. And when you don’t encourage difference, we pave the wave for a generation of same-thinkers, sheepish copycats, who won’t solve anything more than an algebraic equation if they’re lucky. And what use is X and Y in the real world anyway?
If you put a child who thrives in a logical, systematic environment into classes where they are allowed to think methodically in a left brained manner, calculator at hand, you will reap brilliant, outstanding results. But the same goes for the creatives. If you allow them to use their talents to think freely, safe from the anchors of rational thinking and allow them to be the ‘what-ifs’ that they are, and paint the walls pink if they need to, you will give rise to a generation so incredibly powerful and sure of themselves. Switch these students into each other’s learning environments and topics, and they will fail. And when they fail, we fail. You are setting them up to never prosper.
The change starts at home. We don’t label mathematicians who can’t draw realistically as being “stupid”. Likewise, don’t make the mistake of making your unique thinking child feel weak for not fitting in with the stauts quo of parrot learning formulas. Very soon, those age old favourite subjects of maths and science and accounting will fall away to the creative ones, because it’s where we’re busy breeding and teaching our next generation, big-picture thinkers. It’s one thing to utilize a formula, but it takes courage to be creative, and courage to allow your child to be creative.
If you’d like to know more about why we shouldn’t kill creativity, or how schools are currently killing creativity, you can follow those links. I’d love to know your thoughts about this, as it’s something I feel passionately about. As a graphics and photography lecturer, I work closely with these students everyday and am amazed every week of my life at the incredible concepts and ideas that they come up with.