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TED Talk Tuesday: What Adults Can Learn From Kids with Adora Svitak

How long has it been since you were called “childish”? According to child prodigy Adora Svitak, being childish is a good thing, an imperative. This young woman (12 years old at the time of her presentation) goes on to say that the negative traits the word “childish” addresses are seen often enough in adults that we need to abolish this “age-discriminating word” when it comes to criticizing behavior associated with irresponsibility and irrational thinking. As she points out, many of our cultural events (such as world wars, colonization, imperialism) are created by adults, not children.

Ms. Svitak goes on to say that perhaps a certain amount of “irrational thinking” is what the world needs after all. For better or worse, kids aren’t discouraged as much as adults are when it comes to reasons why not to do things. Kids can be full of inspiration, aspiration and hopeful thinking. Kids dream – which is desirable because to make anything a reality, it must be dreamed about first.

A stunning example she cites is the Glass Museum in Tacoma, Washington, where kids participate in a program called “Kids Design Glass”. In this program, kids are encouraged to draw their own ideas for glass art. The resident artist stated they have gotten some of their best ideas from the program because kids don’t think about the limitations of how hard it can be to blow glass into certain shapes. Instead, they simply think about good ideas. I have personally seen the results of the program and, in my opinion, it as an extraordinary creation and partnership.

Too often, Ms. Svitak states, adults underestimate kids’ abilities and creativity. Expectations must be high or children will sink to the lower expectation. And learning between grownups and children should be reciprocal. Students should teach their teachers as well as learn from them. “Listen and learn from kids” is her advice along with “trust and expect more from us”. She points out, in closing, that kids are the leaders of tomorrow – the next generation. The world needs opportunities for new leaders and new ideas. Kids need opportunities to lead and to succeed. She asks of us: Are you ready to make the match?

I invite you to give a listen to this young woman’s TED talk. She is inspiring and delightful – intelligent and well-spoken. Raising our children in a responsible, creative and honorable way is our challenge and our privilege. Check her out. It is well worth your time.

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