We’re Not Merely Wasting Talent. We’re Poisoning It!

Gerald Aungst wrote a comment on yesterday’s ..Reflections from Educon.. blog post, which was mostly a reflection of a podcast interview I listened to yesterday with Richard Branson.  It started with…

I’ve read the biographies (in various forms) of several currently-successful, mostly famous people who the world would consider highly talented, perhaps genius. The common theme in all these stories? School didn’t work for them. They floundered, or even failed, marking time until they could get out and follow their passions.

I started a reply, but I feel so deeply about this issue that I wanted to elevate my reply to full article status.  There is a Chinese idiom that I have become aware of on my trips to China and Hong Kong, Losing Face — although the later, converse of the saying, saving face, seems to be more frequently used today.  I was especially aware of the concept when working with ministry officials, who seemed especially careful not to do anything that might cause embarrassment or cause them to not want to show their face — to lose face. 

I remember once, when I was to speak to a group of elite teachers, no one, among the ministry members on hand, had ever heard me speak.  To introduce me, and then watch me fall on my face, would have hurt the reputation of the person making the introductions.  So they had the youngest and most recently hired member do the introductions.  I do not know if he is not the minister of education or sweeping a factory floor.

What deeply concerns me about this issue of “failing” in school, in spite of (or perhaps because of) valued talents, is that not succeeding in the regimented environments that tend to result from high-stakes testing is far more face-losing today than it was when Richard Branson was in school — and therefore, far more likely to poison the person’s future.  This is tragic, but even more so, because some of these talents that are are practically ignored by high stakes tests are exactly the talents that are so important today — essential to adapting industries and societies.

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Author: David Warlick

David Warlick has been an educator for the past 40+ years. He continues to do some writing, but is mostly seeking his next intersect between play, passion and purpose, dabbling in photography, drone videography and music production.