I was watching a YouTube video that Sir Ken Robinson, a keynote speaker at the American Montessori Society’s Annual Conference, authored regarding education reform and/or changing education paradigms. The United States went through a reform in education during the intellectual culture of the enlightenment and the economic conditions of the industrial revolution (1840-1900). There was another blip of a reformation after Sputnik in the 1950s but not much has happened since then. Our education paradigm is stuck in the high stakes test scores mentality.
What struck me about Sir Ken Robinson’s message was the need to encourage divergent thinking in our children. Divergent thinking is a thought process or method used to generate many creative ideas by exploring many possible solutions. Divergent thinking typically occurs in a spontaneous, free -flowing manner and many ideas are explored in a short amount of time. After the process of divergent thinking has been completed, ideas and information are organized and structured into convergent thinking, which follows logical steps to come up with one solution. We sometimes refer to this as brainstorming. Do we do this enough with our children?
According to psychologists, Carole Wad and Carol Travris, a high IQ alone does not guarantee creativity. Instead, personality traits that promote divergent thinking are more important for the development of this type of thinking. Divergent thinking patterns are found among people with personality traits such as nonconformity, curiosity, willingness to take risks, and persistence. In addition, in Breakpoint and Beyond, a book by George Land and Beth Jarman (1998), 1,500 5-year-old children were tested and 98% scored genius level at divergent thinking or their ability to see multiple uses and solutions or items or problems. This was a longitudinal study – when the same children were 8-10 years old, their score dropped in half and continued to decline as they got older. So what happened to make it deteriorate? Robinson thinks one of the reasons is because they became “educated”.
In one of his State of the Union addresses, President Obama pointed out that economic competitiveness and a path to the American Dream depend on providing every child with an education for success in a global economy. His principles of education emphasize that success is predicated upon knowledge and innovation beginning in early childhood education. Collaboration, a productive social activity long advocated by the Montessori approach, is finally being recognized as an essential element of our children’s future successes and well being.
Doesn’t the above sound like Montessori philosophy and practice?