It’s in part why 5-year-olds are intriguing—they are different. Thus, I was startled, but delighted, when young James asked (when told to line up ‘single file’): “What’s a single file?” But I knew that this curiosity and boldness would not always serve him as well as the docility of those who naturally followed the cues. Yes, it remained for James both an enormous strength and, on occasion, a “deficiency.” How we interpret such behaviors in schools does matter and is worth arguing about, for its impact both on “cognition” and social and emotional learning.

Deborah Meier wrote this in her blog Bridging Differences: “The Company We Keep and Why It Matters”

In the blog she referenced one of her earlier articles: “Learning Not to Learn” – Dissent Vol 15, No 6 Nov-Dec 1968

To enable children to go through the long course of learning required by contemporary society we have got to be able to call upon what Jerome Bruner calls “the natural energies that sustain spontaneous learning.” The force behind such energy lies at least in part in the desire to make sense of and control life. The existence of vital life problems can be an asset to such an intellectual effort. But it requires an environment in which teachers do not constantly demand that children defend their existence and ignore their own perceptions. . . . . it does not respect children’s learning drives and experiential backgrounds.

I read this and reflected that the arts are a place in school that “respect children’s learning drives and experiential backgrounds.” The arts celebrate children’s perceptions and teach them how to expand upon them in ways that become concrete examples of how they see the world – in creative writing, dance, music, theatre and visual arts. We encourage them to be curious. We ask them to be bold in the questions they ask and how they answer them.

The arts are not interested in docile children. We want kids with a gleam in their eye and a really great idea they can’t wait to try out.

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