I’m Not Sure Discovering Passions Is The Right Goal

Posted on December 7, 2011


I hear a lot of people in education talk about allowing a child to discover his or her passion. This is clearly a very important goal, but more and more I’m not sure it’s the goal that we should strive for with regard to education.

I guess “discovering your passion” just sounds too subject specific to me. I’m more concerned with helping my daughter develop the curiosity to explore something that may become a passion, the creativity to take the passion and transform it from a relationship where she is learning about it and turn it in to a relationship where she is adding to it with ideas that she arrived at independently, and the grit to pursue her passions despite setbacks. I’d also love to see her develop the humility to be able to collaborate with others on her passion, to recognize that she’s not always right and to take pride in her ability to admit she is wrong and still be respected at the same time.

So I guess I’m more concerned about giving my daughter the fundamental skills that I think will be important no matter where her passions take her.

If education focuses too much on the passions then they I worry they may drill down too much. If she shows a passion for math or piano then I don’t want her to start focusing all of her time on those skills exclusively. What if she finds her passions evolving over time and she eventually loses her passion for the piano, but since she is so skilled at the piano and so unskilled at everything else she feels unable to let go and continues on with the piano even though her heart is no longer in it.

No, I’d rather focus on the fundamental skills and confidences that enable her to discover, pursue, persevere, and create with regard to any passion she may develop.

But how do I help her develop these skills?

I think first and foremost I’ll try to stay out of the way. I’ll try to let her know that I’m there, so nothing terrible is going to happen to her, but other than that I need to let her explore and think and be wrong and make mistakes and take the long way to the right answer even when I know there’s a shortcut.

From these efforts I think her curiosity will have an opportunity to breathe. Frankly I don’t think you really need to encourage curiosity, you just need to be careful not to destroy it. You just need to find ways to accommodate/encourage it without going insane (when they’re asking you 200 questions a day).

If she has the opportunity to make mistakes and she sees that I don’t take them too seriously then I think she’ll develop the confidence to be wrong and to take risks (at least ones that don’t endanger herself or others) and she’ll learn that anyone who punishes incorrectness, anyone who discourages taking taking risks, etc. is wrong and should be challenged.

Most importantly if she’s allowed to do everything without much intervention from me then I think she’ll be more likely to take ownership of her actions and her ideas. She’ll have the opportunity to realize that her actions and choices are important and that she is the only one who is truly responsible for her own development. That may be the most important lesson.

I’m sure there may be more that I can do, but starting from the perspective of doing less and giving her more opportunities to make choices and mistakes is an idea I’m pretty comfortable with. It’ll be interesting to see how this develops as she gets older.