Follow-up thoughts on ADHD and divergent thinking

After I wrote my post titled Diagnosing a four-year old with ADHD – really? a little over a week ago, I got a very interesting comment from fellow blogger Nancy at nrhatch. (Thanks, Nancy!) She suggested I read her post Changing Education Paradigms where she features a great video from RSA Animate (I love their videos) enhancing a speech from Sir Ken Robinson. In it, he explains how much off-track our education systems around the world really are. His statement is based on the type of workers we need to prepare for the 21th century’s economy, as well as the way a child’s mind works and what type of schooling can bring the best out of our children.

I love the part where Robinson explains that most five-year-olds use divergent thinking (asking questions such as, what if?, why?, why not? ) but by the time they reach their teens, the education system has crushed their divergent thinking and replaced it with the very uninspired, non-critical convergent thinking. Perfect to create quiet, docile plant workers who will follow their leader without questioning, but not much else. And the increase in standardized testing will only reinforce the use of convergent thinking, as divergent thinkers have a hard time answering standardized tests. That’s because every answer has to be either A or B. There’s no more room for creativity, and imagination is being shunned in our schools. As if it was a bad thing to “think out of the box.”

Out of our minds: Learning to be creative by Sir Ken Robinson

Out of our minds: Learning to be creative by Sir Ken Robinson

After working almost 15 years in the corporate world, I can tell you most workers can’t even conceive thinking out of the box. You may think I’m stretching the truth, but spend just one hour in a meeting room with middle to upper management people and you’ll understand what I mean. Quite a shame, since our evolving world and its economic challenges will require just that. New ideas, new concepts, new technologies. And our schools are doing nothing to ensure getting our kids will be ready for this new world.

I’m not sure how we can get it so wrong and why we’re not turning things around quickly enough. I’m afraid it’s our responsibility as parents to make sure our kids preserve their divergent thinking skills, knowing how hard the school system will try to crush them. I’ve ordered Ken Robinson’s book “Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative” to find out more about Robinson’s ideas and what I can do for my kids (and a little bit for myself too) to keep in touch with their creative side. I’ll make sure to let you know what I got out of it in an upcoming WWW Wednesdays update.

What do you think about where our educational system is going? Do you think it’s preparing our kids for tomorrow’s world? What do you think can be done to make things right again?

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6 responses to “Follow-up thoughts on ADHD and divergent thinking

  1. I’m glad you’re continuing the discussion and that you ordered the book. All the focus on standardized testing is misplaced.

    In school, kids should learn to read and write . . . and be taught to LOVE learning for learning sake. They should be taught to play fair and get along with their peers by EMBRACING DIVERSITY not by CONFORMING TO THE NORM. They should be taught to access their inner wisdom by BEING in the moment . . . rather than getting “lost in space.”

    Will we be able to turn things around in time? I honestly don’t know. Time will tell.

    • I have a feeling schools are going to continue teaching our kids the wrong skills for a long time before they make up and realize what huge mistake they have done. I was raised in France and I did have to learn quite a lot of useless rote information, BUT I was also taught to think for myself and use my brain to solve problems and answer questions. To graduate from high school and obtain my baccalaureate, I had to sit down for three full days and take written tests, then a couple more days of oral testings (e.g. languages). Before I came to the US, I had never seen or taken a multiple-choice test. NEVER. Every test I took since I was a little kid, I had to come up with the answer on my own. And no answers at the end of the book either (what’s the point???). The point of my education was to use my brain and figure things out, on my own. The US has been using standardized testing for way too long (SATs promote convergent thinking to the extreme) and unless the education system wakes up and gets away from it, we’re in trouble.

      Life never gives you multiple choices. It’s up to you to figure out what is the best answer for a specific circumstance, and for that circumstance only.

  2. This is why Music and Art classes NEED to be kept in the schools…at least these types of classes help kids unleash their creative sides and start thinking out of the box. So many people seem to think these classes don’t do much good, but from what I saw growing up, the kids in creative classes usually had better grades than those not in them….

    • I agree! Even though my son is only in kindergarten, I already saw the negative attitude from the school towards free art expression. When I suggested his teacher to give him some paper to free draw at the very end of the day when he’s done with all the assigned work, as well as all the extra work he can do, she replied she’d prefer to have him do something more “academic.” Wow, I can’t believe a kindergarten doesn’t see the value of letting a five-year old express himself and learn to use pencils in a more creative way.

  3. I became a teacher hoping to reach out to the bright kids who hated school but had so much to offer. Not every school, and not every teacher squashes creativity, but it is definitely way too common. I do not know how to fix this problem in our schools. So, yes, it is up to us parents to provide creative experiences at home. Keep the 3 yr old alive in all of us, experiment, explore, wonder, create, question. Get messy!

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