Elizabeth Gilbert has said that following your passion is the wrong advice. She says, “Passion is rare; passion is a one-night-stand. Passion is hot, it burns. Every day, you can’t access that.”
She suggests we follow our curiosity instead. If you don’t have one white-hot passion to follow, you at least are curious, and you can follow that every day until you have arrived at a worthwhile destination.
As an artist, I resonate with her advice. I wonder all the time, and give myself fairly free reign to pursue questions and try things–following my curiosity. I trust that my curiosity will lead me to the solutions to my creative challenges.
As a teacher and parent, this advice alarms me. Our educational model stifles curiosity almost as if it’s a top priority. Mandatory computer-graded testing demands facts and rote knowledge; these are unlikely to spur curiosity or creativity. Larger classes lead to fewer opportunities for questions. Lockstep learning means you aren’t permitted either to rocket ahead, propelled by your curiosity, OR to linger behind, snagged by your curiosity.
If you agree with Gilbert’s advice (and you should), then you must change your classroom and your parenting to reflect curiosity as a main priority.
Curiosity requires digressions. It requires “wasted” time. It requires throwing away lesson plans. It requires crosstalk, individuality, and imagination.
Let children ask what if questions. (What if we crescendo on that note? What if Booth didn’t shoot Lincoln?) And then follow their curiosity.
Ask children questions that can’t be Googled. Encourage children to ask questions that can’t be Googled.
Model your own curiosity for children.
When talking of past achievers, note their curiosity, not just their Wikipedia bullet points. Beethoven, Earhart, Einstein, Edison, Picasso: these are curious minds following their curiosity.
Curiosity is one of the great hallmarks of humanity. Following curiosity is the key to creation. Nurturing curiosity is among our most important challenges.