The title of this article is a question that came from a principal of a primary school in Malta whom I met to present my doctoral research findings recently. Her question was as a result of one of the slides in my presentation. The slide contained several quotes of children (no real names have been used in the video below) from schools across the country whom I had asked what they used their networked media technologies for. The discussion leading up to the question what children used their networked media technologies for surrounded the subject of creativity and creative production with digital media tools.
Here is what the principal saw that prompted her rather rhetorical question, the title of this article: “Yes, but how many of them have it?”
By “it” the principal, of course, meant the personal interests that they, the children, could pursue and that, as I suggested by sharing these quotes, could be fostered in class, say during ICT lessons (to be turned into ‘creativity workshops’), by allowing children to make projects, write stories, film video clips, design digital books and journals, presentations, run blogs, or develop any other means to express these interests. If a child is fascinated by writing stories, let it happen. If a child is intrigued by diseases or by what’s inside the iPhone, let them discover more. Let them make things to express their interests. Alas, to this principal I met, such interests are not bestowed upon many children but just by a few. The principal couldn’t be further from the truth. The biggest tragedy here is that this principal’s beliefs may represent many other adults’ beliefs – adults who decide upon a child’s education, even future.
I instantly objected to the argument, assuming that it was, after all, a question the principal had asked. “All of them!” I said. “Absolutely all children have interests and pursuits of some kind! We just have to hear them and let them speak or express themselves in some way . It doesn’t have to be with words. That’s why they go online and watch videos and check things out. They simply follow their own curiosities. Everyone is curious about something!”
The principal scoffed, “Yeah, right.” Then rebutted, “They all just want to play Minecraft all day. The boys especially.” There was so much unfairness in these statements that such words cannot be taken lightly.
So, here is my little blog, where I want to stress that as respectful and intelligent as principals and educators and policy makers and professionals and other decision-makers in the life of a child may be, there is still so much to be made clear about the capabilities, intelligence and creativity of children. My efforts are only a small whiff in the wind that needs to blow and trim the stereotypes, the quick judgements, the outdated beliefs, the misuse of power of the independent over the dependent.
Everyone must be held responsible for their beliefs, not only their actions. If that principal follows the personal stereotyping beliefs about children, what can we say about the way the same principal judges children’s intelligence, efforts and creativity or anything else for that matter? What can we say about the rules the principal will impose as a result? What can we expect about how the same principal will relay information about the progress and the capabilities of children?
As adults and especially those stakeholders in a child’s life we must not take as universal that just because we are vested with powers – whether that is to run a school, diagnose, or build – we are immune to scrutiny or that our capabilities can never be questioned, that our opinions can never be overruled as complete nonsense. We could start from scratch to learn what the latest literature says about children. Better yet, we must have regular conversations with children about what they love, pursue and think about more than anything!
No one is perfect and just because some have achieved a lot, it doesn’t make them any more perfect still. In fact, we should stop praising people, just their actions, if anything. This doctor operated successfully on a patient. Yet, he may turn out to be an abuser (here’s a case). This actor acted tremendously. That certainly doesn’t make him a great guy overall. Just look at Kevin Spacey. The same way, this principal may be great at running a school but terrible at judging children – my generalisation about the principal. Unfair, isn’t it?
Rather than denounce children their individual capabilities and interests with generalisations, we should look at today, now, this minute, in the particular circumstances and conditions and discuss private cases. Moreover, rather than expect them to always verbalise their thoughts and interests or respond to pre-set by adults templates, perhaps they could demonstrate their interests in other ways. Let’s give children a chance to demonstrate that ALL OF THEM have ‘it’.