Public Issues Forums of Centre County | Approach 3: Allow children to explore, develop individual talents

Children overflow with unbridled imagination and possibility.

Facing difficult global challenges, we must equip a generation of young people to build on these visions to find what they love, learn the required skills and discover creative ways to apply this knowledge to bring a positive transformation to our world.

I believe the primary role for our schools is to help students discover and develop their talents.

I’ll begin with what I believe to be the two components of talent: the mastery of skill and the application of that knowledge.

Because I probably can’t leave that statement undefended, imagine an incredibly talented person; then try to ignore every way his or her talents might intersect with humanity. If you’ve pictured Mozart exclusively humming to himself (or something similar) we can move on.

Schools traditionally have been built around the valuable work of mastering skill. Harder for educational institutions is the more customized art of teaching students to apply this knowledge in meaningful ways.

In my work, I meet many extremely capable soon-to-be college graduates who are full of skills but are still struggling to find a way to apply their knowledge. Fully developing both aspects of a talent allows students to express their innate creativity and find purpose in their work.

Perhaps I come to this view because my own education comprised two streams. My formal education taught me real skills. Alongside, with occasional overlaps, were my projects.

Reflecting on my education, this project track most clearly molded who I am today. Through these projects, I met a community of wise mentors, learned how to ask good questions, recover from failures and even discovered greater value in my classes as tools to augment my explorations.

The author Frederick Buechner wrote, “To find your mission in life is to discover the intersection between your heart’s deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger.”

The millennial generation in particular is searching for ways to find meaning and purpose in their work. We must create ways for young people to embark on the journey to discover the whole of their talent.

I argue that successful workers and responsible citizens are the product of an educational system that gives students the opportunity to discover and develop their talents.

A truly transformative education prepares us not just to have knowledge in our heads, but for that to flow into the world around us.