In business, when we learn about strategic planning, all we are really studying is the art of articulating a vision – first to ourselves, then to other people in our organization, then to people outside of our organization who have an interest in what we are doing. Every great vision starts with a simple idea, and every great innovation is simply the result of a person or a team of people who are willing to do whatever it takes to make the idea come to life.
What if we took this concept and applied it to education? We lament over the collective national lack of interest in science and mathematics, but maybe all we need to do is get a little better at communicating our vision to our youngest and brightest minds. Instead of forcing bored teenagers to memorize periodic tables, what if we started by showing them what humans are capable of creating when they possess a basic understanding of the building blocks of life?
Take “Big Idea #2” from this WIRED article, for example. We can teach anyone that a proton combined with an electron creates hydrogen, but why do we expect them to care if they have no concept of how a single molecule of hydrogen is relevant to them? But if instead, we open with, “We can create enough free fuel for the entire planet as long as we have sunlight,” maybe now we’ve captured their interest long enough to teach them how a battery works.
I’m sure there are many great educators who are already doing this, and I applaud them. I can’t help but think that if we enthusiastically encouraged and funded this type of approach, we’d have more aspiring scientists, mathematicians, technologists and innovators than we’d know what to do with.