Sam Grossman grew up thinking he was stupid, lazy and irresponsible—"a screw-up," as he puts it. Struggling with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), he constantly disappointed his parents and teachers alike.Our current, typical K-12 education, public or private, is not designed for people like Sam. In fact, it we tried to create an environment to frustrate Sam we couldn't do much better job that a k-12 class room. For Sam, those classrooms can be torture chambers. Thus the reason he seems stupid, lazy and irresponsible—"a screw-up,"
Distractibility, poor impulse control and emotional sensitivity have flip sides that are actually strengths—namely creativity, energy and intuition... A mind that flits easily from one thought to the next may not be good at mastering the material for a biology test, but the authors contend that a nonlinear mind can excel at combining ideas in new ways.How people think and learn comes in a wide spectrum. We design classrooms for the middle if the bell curve, and neither end is well served. Most educators were themselves successful in the existing system, and thus don't get why Sam finds the system frustrating. When you bring this up to them, most ignore what you're saying and some get defensive. Very few empathize.
The reason that the Sam's of the world sometimes succeed as entrepreneurs is that they finally get to create an environment that matches their strengths, in particular their nonlinear thinking that excels at combining ideas in new ways. It's also why you often see them matching up with a strong operating partner to compensate for their weaknesses. Most K-12 education doesn't help Sam develop his full potential. As Sir Ken Robinson has clearly articulated, we spent 12 years systematically beating creativity, energy and intuition out of Sam.
Having a wide variety of educational alternatives that meet the needs of a wide spectrum of students isn't going to come from the top down. Variety never does. It's going to come, if it comes at all, from educational entrepreneurs who seek to create novel ways of delivering education to students not well served today. To empower that system, the money in education needs to follow the student.
If you are suspecting that I have lived this struggle both as a student and a parent, you are right.