Posts Tagged ‘education’

So I don’t really know much about Jonathan Mooney. He’s someone who struggled with dyslexia who people counted out, and today he is someone rethinking education. I don’t know more than that about his story, but I do know this speech he gave is what I have been saying for years. Caution, he used a “seven-letter four-letter word” but this message is dead on. Everyone has a gift. Everyone, every single person has at least one thing that they can use to make a great life and make the world a better place. Check it out.

Thanks Goalcast for another inspiring message.

My son got a mediocre grade and the best compliment one can get. He is in college, training to be a teacher, working with middle school students, specializing in social studies and math. Today in one of his education classes, he was told his project was “too creative.” He received a pretty mediocre grade because of it. I’m quite proud of him.

Because here is the thing. Education is changing but for some reason, people seem determined to maintain the status quo, creating obedient “factory workers” for factories that really don’t exist anymore, at least not in the U.S. We read statistic after statistic about the switch to a creative economy, how the MFA is the new MBA, and the constant need for more and more creatives and yet we are still training for a model that is becoming increasingly irrelevant. What we really need are creative teachers, teaching and challenging our children to tap into their own creativity. Why on earth would anyone want to stifle a future teacher’s creativity?

In education as in most of life, being too creative is like having too much love, or too much money. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t exist.

I read a post from a dear friend who was lamenting that we’re not educating people to be well-rounded. I wholeheartedly disagreed. I think we are trying to make everyone well rounded to the detriment of us all. Consider this, don’t we spend the majority of our time trying to bolster students weaknesses while ignoring their strengths? How can that be a good thing?

I’m not saying there is anything wrong with making people try new things when they are young to help them to find their “hidden gifts.” Nor do I think there is a problem with making sure everyone has the basics. The problem is we’re still trying to educate people to be cogs in factories that no longer exist. The arts are perpetually on the chopping blocks so we can guide everyone toward the so-called practical choices. This is so chronically absurd when one considers this nation has outsourced huge quantities of its manufacturing in favor of a creative economy.

Here’s the thing guys. I am 51 years old and I still have NEVER used algebra or trigonometry or physics in any but the most practical ways, yet these were the courses where I quite literally beat my brains in, just to barely pass. Instead I became the thing I always knew I would be, an artist. I wonder how much better off I would have been had I been allowed to fill at least some of those time slots with art classes. We’ll never know but hopefully through determination and hard work, I gained the ground I lost on subjects I would never use.

And it’s not just me. My oldest son is a farmer. He’s always been gifted for it. He’s always had an aptitude for it. From the time he was 12 years old he worked on farms gathering skills and building a work ethic. When he was in school I was terrified for him to go into this field, not because I thought little of farmers, but because I didn’t see how he would acquire all the things needed to be a farmer. I pushed him to do well in things he would never ever use because I thought his dream was impractical. How would I ever be able to help him buy a farm. Here’s the truth. While I was worrying, he was working and learning and gathering. Today he is a brilliant businessman/farmer with a net worth much higher than mine, doing what he has always wanted to do. Is he well-rounded, not really, but he is really good at what he does, and isn’t that FAR more important.

My youngest son is studying to be a teacher. He clearly has always had an aptitude for this type of work. He’s amazing at working with children. He’s always had a strong interest in history and so it makes sense that his concentration is social studies, however his course of study requires him to have a second concentration. English seemed to be the obvious choice. He’s an amazing writer, a voracious reader, and he has been doing community theater for half his life. He was told he could not take social studies and english, that if he was going to be in social studies, he would have to take either math or science. Why? So he could be well-rounded. So instead of excelling where he is gifted he is being forced to take expensive classes where he struggles, pulling down his GPA and possibly making it more difficult to get the job he desires. It makes ZERO sense.

Well-rounded is a myth. I could care less how well my doctor did in math, so long as he can heal my body. Likewise we are pushing some people away from the trades that are needed by everyone. We don’t need a bunch of generalists who dabble in everything. We need a world full of virtuosos who depend on each other to be strong where we’re weak. I believe this is by design, interdependent people living in community and bring their best makes a lot more sense than a world full of people who can do everything just well enough to get by.

The world is well rounded. Be a virtuoso. Virtuosos working together makes the world go ’round.

“Each one should use whatever gifts he has received to serve others.” 1 Peter 4:10

One of the most difficult, frustrating parts of my speaking ministry is also the most crucial. Educating people about what I do. I’m always truly blessed and amazed by the response to what I do. It is clear many people really love it. There’s something about the visual element, watching the image come together, wondering what I am doing, etc. that draws the audience in so that when I am ready to speak they are ready to listen. It works like a charm, and all glory for that belongs to God.

The people who bring me in love what I do. The problem is often to get people to bring me in. They wonder if it will be boring, kind of like watching paint dry (it isn’t because it goes the painting goes by too fast (I average 6-8 minutes for most pieces) and I combine that element of the presentation with video or music). They wonder if I will be distracting. My answer to this is, it might be to some, but this will also draw already distracted people into the message. That’s what it’s designed to do. It also shows the vast majority of people who don’t do the big three (preaching, playing and singing) that there are more ways than just those three to worship God and that there are a multitude of ways to serve Him as well. To me the art is and will always be subservient to the message, it’s just another act of worship, like the music, to draw people into the Word. My presentation is designed to show people their God-given gifts have value in the Kingdom.

They worry will I make a mess. While nothing is foolproof, I am very careful to spread tarps everywhere because I have the utmost respect for the church. Some worry about the teaching. I make every effort to be scripturally sound because ultimately, I want to honor God and bless the church. I am tasked with the responsibility of teaching the Word of God. It’s something I take very seriously.

Then there is the question of value. I try to keep my costs to the church low by mainly asking for a free-will offering but some have questioned this, thinking I don’t value what I do highly enough. The truth is, I value what I do extremely highly, because it’s designed to connect people with Jesus (How much should eternity cost?) and help them to find and use their God-given gifts and talents, finding their life’s purpose and worshipping with their lives (How much is that worth?). It’s not that I don’t value it, it’s that I never want money to stand between me and fulfilling this mission. My life was radically changed when a pastor found my gift and showed me that I could use it to serve the Lord.

Every single time I do this ministry, I know it was what I was called and created to do.

I just wish more people understood it. The ones who see it, do.

All I need is a chance.

Yesterday’s comments on the post, Creativity is Not to Be Outgrown, let me know I must have been less than clear. I am not blaming the schools and especially not arts educators. I know many of them and respect them highly. What I should have made clearer is even after decades of talk about multiple intelligences, i.e. different people are gifted in different ways, we still act as though certain subjects are less important and therefore first on the chopping block. So rather than just teaching arts for arts’ sake we seem to force educators to show how their subject can reinforce something “more important.”

In school, as a human target, art was my refuge. It was the one place where I could shine. It’s what I was wired to do and thank God there were people there to teach it. When I got out of high school, I got talked into studying electronics engineering because that was a field that wouldn’t need a “back up plan.” I failed miserably and struggled to this day, without a degree, to develop these gifts of mine, and become what I am.

Then you know what I did? I talked my son who wanted to be a farmer from the womb into studying to become a machinist toolmaker, so he could get a job where my dad worked and make a lot of money working for the single largest employer in the county. By the time he graduated, that company was gone. I didn’t do it because I didn’t think highly of farming, I did and still do. I just couldn’t see any way to help him get all the money it costs to start a farm. My son has a gift, he found a way, and he is now a successful farmer.

Here’s the point, we’re all gifted in some way and the best thing we can do is develop that and trust God. We get nowhere trying to outgrow our creativity. We simply have to develop it, study it and find a way. I appreciate all of the folks who taught me and every one of them had a role in my life.

I just thought I better make that clear.

This is an amazingly challenging video from one of the great minds of our day, Seth Godin. If you’re at all interested in art, creativity and/or education, you must watch this video.

This one is not really about art, but it is about life. The person who posted it to YouTube titles it The Best Motivational Video Ever and it’s definitely near the top. Nick Vujicic was born without limbs ad lives without limits. This video will challenge you about how to deal with the tough times.