On a recent hike, I saw it: the universal symbol that “this trail is closed.” Limbs were deliberately places across a trail indicating that it was not meant for my exploration. Clearly I was supposed to follow the marked trail as it turned to the right. I had a choice to make. I could either be a true adventurer or a rule follower. I’ve always been a rule follower, so I turned right and thought about coming back another day to take the path that was closed. I am confident that I missed something important when I chose yet again to be a rule follower.
In classrooms across the US, the choice we must make is far more important than being an adventurer or a rule follower. We must decide whether we create adventurers or rule followers for what we nurture is what grows. We’re nurturing future citizens, so we must ask ourselves as a nation, what do we most value: rule followers or adventurers. Current initiatives provide contradictory information. New standards like the Common Core and the Next Generation Science Standards place emphasis on the spirit of the adventurer. They emphasize depth of thought and highlight practices of thought instead of low level thinking and memorization of facts. However, other initiatives like high stakes testing and programs of “positive behavior intervention and support” reward rule following.
Innovation, advances in science, leaps in technology require the spirit of the adventurer. If we spend the next several years extinguishing that spirit and instead raising up a cohort of rule followers, we will suffer stagnation in innovation. Let’s commit this week to embracing the spirit of the adventurer and nurturing it.