Since I taught myself PHP/MySQL last year, I’ve been thinking about how I’d like to teach kids to make stuff on the web. The idea has been sort of brewing in my head and I’ve written a few things/shared it with a few folks. Basically I want to create a curriculum not around teaching code, which is done and is boring, but around the interdisciplinary process of making stuff.
Anyway, the process would begin with teaching kids about where ideas come from. Basically I think that early on you can explain to children that rather than treating an irritant or inconvenience as something that annoys them, you can show them it’s an opportunity to make something new: To fix a problem. That to me describes the entrepreneurial spirit. There, I Fixed It is more than just the ability to continue on with what you were doing, it is invention. (I’m certainly not the first person to make this point, Thoughtless Acts illustrates it nicely.)
Or, take this definition from the very long Atlantic article on happiness. (It’s about the longest running longitudinal studies that has looked at the overall health and well-being of a select group of Harvard males over the last 70 years.) The quote is about one of the studies participants who had overcome lots of hardships:
In several vignettes in the book, Vaillant presents Merton [a participant] as an exemplar of how mature adaptations are a real-life alchemy, a way of turning the dross of emotional crises, pain, and deprivation into the gold of human connection, accomplishment, and creativity. “Such mechanisms are analogous to the involuntary grace by which an oyster, coping with an irritating grain of sand, creates a pearl,” he writes. ‘Humans, too, when confronted with irritants, engage in unconscious but often creative behavior.”
It makes me smile to think of human ingenuity as comparable to an oyster making a pearl. And I think it’s a pretty good recipe.