Leave them Children alone /by Helen Buckley
Quashing a child’s originality
in favor of the straight and narrow has disturbing implications for organizational innovation
, and society at large.
A family anecdote relates with pride the story of how a child suffered the ignominy of failing in his nursery test at school. When asked, “what swims?” the child answered “crocodile”; to the question “what burns?” the answer was “toast”, and when asked “how many legs does the horse have”, he replied “three”, and told his perplexed parent that it was a “lame horse”. Sadly, the evaluator didn’t see these uncommon and creative answers as merit-worthy and the child was denied admission.
Helen Buckley’s little boy character in a powerful poem-cum-short story of that name, who finds his originality slowly squished by a limited world-view that values obedience
at the cost of the creative spirit
Imagine a teacher telling a boy that we are going to make flowers. The boy thought it was a good idea and he liked to make beautiful ones, with his pink, orange and blue crayons. But the teacher asked him to wait
. And he showed him a flower design- red in color with a green stem. And pretty soon the little boy only learnt to wait
and make things as instructed. And down the line, he didn’t make things of his own anymore.
The above scenario is an example of an educative system that differentiates the quantitative and the functional at the expense of the qualitative and the creative. On one hand, a father, who when told that his son is an exceptional artist, worries about what sort of a career this could lead to; on the other, a responsible person who dismisses the child’s talent because of his inability to deliver on subjects considered essential to the mainstream.
The route that we, as parents and educators, opt for will shape the way in which our society will develop. In Helen Buckley’s poem, the little boy escapes when he is young enough to recover.
Suppose if the little boy had happened to meet an adventurous teacher, who would have allowed venturing on his own, the boy would have begun to make pink, orange and blue flowers and thereafter developed more creativity
down the line.
The first scenario teaches us a lesson that if you play with the children’s creativity, it is fraught with risk. Leave it too late and the damage will be irreversible.