The Rarity of Out-of-the-Box Thinkers

This photo has been going around the internet for a while:
alphabeticalThe story goes that the author of this brilliance is autistic.  If someone in my family had done this (one sister, in particular, leaps to mind: she often entertains herself by following rules to the letter), my parents would have given them brownie points for creativity… and then made them write an articulate letter of apology to the teacher because none of us is autistic so this would have been done just to piss off the teacher.
A couple of acquaintances–former homeschoolers–were discussing it on Facebook.  I quote with their permission:
Mother #1:  This reminds me of when [my son] was being homeschooled. I would wonder what the heck he was doing and then realize it was me who was not keeping up to him.
Mother #2: I know what you mean. I often wondered if I’d done [my son] a disservice by home schooling because I worried he hadn’t learned enough. Those worries were put to rest after his first semester at college. I now know we did exactly the right thing for him. He’s such an out-of-the-box thinker and I couldn’t be happier about that.
What’s inspired me to write a blog about this is the fact that this photo has become such an issue that people are discussing it on Facebook, and that it’s worthy of newspaper articles, etc.  Out-of-the-box thinkers (to quote again) seem to be special.  In our society, school is so regimented that a student who doesn’t follow the rules is newsworthy.
But, as you can see from the Facebook conversation, there are at least two out-of-the-box thinkers in my city; if you include their parents, that makes six.  Plus my son.  And one of my sisters.  Two ESL teachers I hired specifically because they challenge rules.  A good friend of mine who is always in trouble for thinking.  Several people who write blogs that I read whenever I get a chance.  There seem to be a lot of them in my life, so I doubt they’re all that rare in other people’s lives.
Occasionally, I get the pleasure of having a student who needs a little unschooling (untutoring?)  We walk around the library, pulling books off the shelf because the student likes the topic–or perhaps likes the cover.  We talk about some stuff.  We play a game or two.  We draw.  We do some math problems (god help me).  I’m not “handing down knowledge” or showing the student how to “practice required skills”.  I’m not better or more knowledgeable; the student is not receiving information that they couldn’t get from anywhere else.  We’re just checking some stuff out.  Sometimes they teach me a thing or two (like math) and sometimes a book teaches them.  More often, they discover something that interests them and I just sit back and sip my tea while they draw more circles until they get what looks like a rocket ship made of bubbles.  Then they want to know more about rocket ships or bubbles or circles or drawing or how hot water turns dead leaves into tea.
All this time, I haven’t told them to do anything.  And they’ve learned.  They learn without my help: I’m just there to carry books and spell a few hard words.
These are the kids who don’t think outside the box.  Imagine how little effort we have to put in for the kids that do.
I think it’s time to let all the out-of-the-box thinkers out of the closet.  Come on out, people.  Flood the internet until you’re not special anymore.  Make Chicken Soul Soup irrelevant.  Please.  For the sake of the world.

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