Christian Long

Adora Svitak: What Adults Can Learn From Kids

In TED Talks on April 4, 2010 at 7:44 pm

Reflection by EMMA L.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Adora Svitak: What Adults Can Learn From Kids

Restrictions; where is the limit? Adults and teens limit their ideas because of mental boundaries.

Society makes these boundaries that reduce the ability one has to dream. In many adults there comes a point where they stop themselves and come to the conclusion that their dream or idea is impossible; thinking the impossible leads to failure. In addition, the fear of being called “childish” for the out of the ordinary ideas and dreams also are in everyone’s minds, but it doesn’t have to be.

Arguably, the best dreamers can be seen in children. Their minds have not yet matured, their views are evolving, and their identity is being discovered. At this point is where ideas and creativity are not questioned in their minds which allow their imagination to perform at its best. It is not until a child begins to mature and learn the ways in their society when restrictions are placed in their minds that limit their ability to dream. Adora Svitak explains that adults have restricted attitudes towards children because of their need to control. Adults should listen and take into account the wishes of the younger population instead of dismissing their ideas and wants as immature or as insignificant.

Adults, however, do have many years of experience and wisdom children hope to go through as they mature. History plays another role in why adults can rethink on ideas from a child. Perhaps their ideas have already become a reality or by explaining to the child how a negative outcome came from this idea already; the child will still feel like their ideas are significant. Once a child feels like their ideas are not being heard or are being dismissed as childish or immature, the willpower to dream and create will diminish and their imagination will never be back to its full potential.

Underestimation is another point Adora brings up that demonstrates the confined boundaries children are living with. When expectations for a child are low, the child sees no need to go above those expectations. Therefore encouragement is one of the top strategies teachers and parents use to push their kids to achieve their highest goal, whether it is in sports, the arts or academics. Adults and parents who dismiss or say “its impossible” to a child, their own confidence decreases and their new ideas begin to be questioned in their mind whether it is impossible or if they will be rejected again. Thus limitations are inscribed into their minds, restricting their imagination and creativity.

In another TED video, “Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity,” Ken explains:

“If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you will never come up with anything original” and “We don’t grow into creativity we are educated out of it.”

These quotes articulate how society ingrains fear into children of being wrong and making too many mistakes. Adults have lost the capacity to admit they are wrong or to take risks that could change the world because of this fear and the fear of being different. By underestimating a child’s creativity, a talent or passion waiting to be discovered will be lost due to the lack of resources, like the removal of the arts programs in many schools, and the lack of support from others.

This alludes to Adora’s final point: progress is achieved from each generation, not just one. By listening and believing in the generations to come, the ability to solve the problems of the past and future will become greater and greater. Nurturing the creativity in children allows them to become even wiser and greater adults than in the past, which should be the goal everyone wants. Children should not “be the adults” or say what’s right or wrong but they also should not be rejected from their own ideas that could lead to endless possibilities for the future.

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  1. First, I love that you referred to Sir Ken Robinson’s talk (and look forward to what I hope will be a reflection on that in the coming weeks, too). Savvy connection that shows the value of looking at the themes running throughout all TED talks.

    Second, I really appreciate how you ended your piece: “Nurturing the creativity in children allows them to become even wiser and greater adults than in the past, which should be the goal everyone wants. Children should not “be the adults” or say what’s right or wrong but they also should not be rejected from their own ideas that could lead to endless possibilities for the future.” I’ve heard several educators remark how they had a hard time taking this TED Talk seriously because they can’t overlook the fact that experience still counts for something (if not a a great deal more)…but you make a wise point in your conclusion.

  2. Hey Emma,

    Let me continue with Christian’s final thoughts. I’m one of those educators who has a hard time taking Svitak seriously. Let me go to the excerpt where you say,” Adults, however, do have many years of experience and wisdom children hope to go through as they mature.”

    So as one of those adults with some experience, I do like the message that Svitak espouses. Hard to argue. But I take a little exception with her role as some type of leader. I realize that in this talk, she is not shown in this way but I’m quite aware of her speaking engagements at various teacher conferences.

    I’m concerned that her message is one that requires healthy does of experience and wisdom which at the age of 12, she doesn’t have. It leaves me wondering what can we learn from her? Her message is so very similar to Sir Ken’s that I’m wondering what she is offering other than she’s 12 and its equal parts cute and pretentious. I know there is a fairly strong mother figure in the wings who promotes her more than any Hollywood publicist does and that also irks me somewhat.

    Can we learn from kids? Absolutely. But not necessarily from a 12 year old speaking wizard. I’m more interested in learning from kids as kids, not as kids in the adult world. That may be a harsh commentary but it’s a gut reaction I’ve had to her and I know many would disagree with me and can see past her age. I can’t.

  3. Hello Mr. Shareski!

    Thank you for taking the time to read my reflection of Svitak’s talk and write a response. You bring up several points that one should consider before forming an opinion about her and her message.

    I agree that at age twelve one does not have anywhere near enough experience/wisdom as many of the adults or TED talkers, but she is presenting her message through the eyes of a child. Svitak may not bring uniqueness in her TED talk, but she is starting the conversation and idea of adults listening to a child’s imagination and dreams which could lead to improvements in the future.

    She is one out of millions of children who we can learn from.

    If anyone can benefit from listening to a child, Svitak message is valid. I believe Svitak is planting the seed in many people’s minds of “the importance of listening to children”, all one has to do is lend an ear to a child and see what happens.

    I pose a question to you and anyone else who is reading this. Will Svitak message be as compelling when she is age sixteen?

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