Pietro Speroni di Fenizio

Researcher, Coimbra University


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Should we ask kids to help us solving the real world problems? And if yes, how?

To answer here you really should see the World Peace Game talk first.

When in the comment section on the World Peace game I commented that the game could not possibly be realistic and be solvable that easily, protested that the kids are too young for that.

Well, Ken Robinson makes a good point that children are born creative (or genius) and are educated out of their creativity. And I remember reading that the number of gifted children is quite high for low age, but then as time goes by (and children age) the percentage drops.

So maybe we could let kids help us in solving the world problems. Not when they grow up, right now!
(I pity the parents of such a kid: -"go to bed at 7, and stop speaking about the UN that is making your mother uncomfortable ;-) ")

It could really be done, by presenting the problem in all its complexity to them, and ask them what would they do.

There is an experimental way of citizen jury where a random sample of the population is invited to hear about a problem. For 2 days they receive information from the experts, and then they vote on what should be done.

An example of what could be done here is to have a group of children, and have them hear from the experts what is the situation. Maybe it would work better if each children would try to take the point of view of one of the real world participant, and maybe to have more than one children per role. A sort of young advisor council.

It would be like the World Peace Game, but more complex, with more children for each role, and only trying to decide a single move.

Of course the long term effect psychological of this experience on them should be considered. It would surely make them mature faster. In an age where people feel they are not fully adult well in their thirties it might have some interesting side effects.

  • Apr 21 2011: They couldn't do any worse...
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    Apr 22 2011: We should not give children any responsebilety, but we ought to ask them for advise.
    It might take, till they are old them self to solve the problems created by there ancestors, so they should have the oportunety to start es early as possible.

    Childhood is not at least the time to prepare for the challenges of life, and the best way to practise a skill is to practise it.
    • Apr 25 2011: You know, I've written some quick posts that I don't feel so "complete" about. Sorry.
      But, when Philipp says, "but we ought to ask them for advice", it made me think, aha!
      of course, we can't put this responsibility on them but why can't we and why shouldn't
      we, ask them what they think?

      There is no harm or added pressure, in that. I think most adults could handle that in a non-pressure way and generally speaking, I don't think it would add stress'
      to their minds or lives unless they are in some sort of tumultuous situation already.

      If they inquire for more, then they should most likely have more imparted to them, but without their being
      responsible. Anyway, just wanted to say that.
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        Apr 25 2011: Absolutely, anyone experiencing gravitational pull should be encouraged to participate and voice their opinions. Children, the aged, heck everyone.
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          Apr 26 2011: Yes, totally agree to ask kids for advise. 4th graders is one, though with 'lost' 16 year olds it also works as empowerment I have a guy called Humberto Schwab do.

          The main premises I read in this conversationis; "Man, to think like a kid, that would be great!" So is there a way we as adults can 'think as a 9 year old 'sometimes"...

          TEDx update : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wAe9iraJkms&feature=relmfu getting childlike creativity back.
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    May 3 2011: Are we so unable to trust our own hard won wisdom that we're prepared to ask children for sage advice for our most pressing challenges? We have the answers but we just don't like the cost of truths inconvenience. Children are free spirits and creative but they're not holders of some mystery we should tap into to solve ills created by our own hands.

    We need to also get past this "everything my child does is magical" fetishisization of kids. As cute as your kid might be, as clever as she is, as good of a dancer / mathematician, etc, she isn't going to address the general council and blow them all away with a nugget of eternal wisdom. Kids are the future, in the future. For now, they just need to be allowed to play, learn in their own way at their own speed, and be fed nutritious food. That's enough of a challenge in it self outside of creating some sort of mechanism to allow them to opine on the future of humanity.

    We, the adults of the world are empowered to fix what we have wrought. It is our responsibility and if we squander it by looking for outlets and other cultural and societal alchemy, we're merely frittering away opportunities to do the hard work, have the hard conversations, tell the hard truths, make the hard decisions and spend the hard money.

    Children don't have the answers, but if we don't do something now, they will have to come up with answers to questions we conveniently ignored when we had the chance to do something. Now, lets get back to work.
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      May 3 2011: There is no one muzzling or muting children's voices. What a horrendous thought!

      Children are being heard and if you listen to what they say, it is refreshingly innocent and cute. Just like a child, my child, your child, everyone's child.

      Children running for school leadership positions like to promise fellow students longer recesses and more dances and the favorite science experiment is still a foam-spouting volcano. So cute it could bring a tear to your eye.

      This isn't good or bad. It's just the innocence and cuteness of children.

      Their real and fleeting brilliance is unabashed joy.

      Adults seem to have a need to diminish some of that joy, don't we? Why is that?
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      May 3 2011: If you think that kids cannot speak to the UN general counsel and make an astounding contribution you need to watch this.
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        May 3 2011: Do you know who the parents of Severn Cullis-Suzuki are?
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          May 3 2011: SHe is the daughter of David Suzuki.
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        May 3 2011: If you read anything about her, she hates to be referred to in that way. She points out that she does have a renown environmental activist mother.
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          May 4 2011: Thanks EA, even though I have lived in Canada all of my life and have known of David Suzuki most of my life, I have never heard anything about Severn's mother. What did you think of Severn's speach given the topic of discussion?
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        May 4 2011: Severn's speech at the UN was a wonderful show. She greatly impressed many adults.

        Today she feels conferences like these are a waste of time. Media is a tool to be used and performing for and on this tool requires no special talent. Having been asked numerous times to repeat this spectacle, she has continually refused.

        Her words and thoughts on the matter.

        Severn hasn't stated that she regrets having done this show piece but she has no plans to do it again.

        Adults are easily amused it seems and they love to see children perform.

        She would rather work at grass-root levels as she feels this is a much more effective use of her time and energy. She reports that her own true insight and understandings arrived in her mid-twenties. Severn is now in her early thirties.
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          May 19 2011: >Today she feels conferences like these are a waste of time.

          How interesting. I was greatly unimpressed by her talk, and now I feel she might agree with me. Maybe you made me reconsider her, despite of her past performance.

          When I asked about asking kids to participate in the decision process I did not intend having kids getting on the desk and say "You all evil, now stop damaging the earth". I think to really be of help kids need to be empowered with information, and then help in the nitty gritty of the details of the problem. Severn's talk might be interesting to show how far we all are aware of the problem. But it is not helping a bit in finding the solutions.
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          May 20 2011: Teach children about self-esteem and compassion, let them play a bit in the realm of solutionist projects with Zoe Weil and anthroposophical activities with Steiner, and have faith we prepared them a bit on the world in front of them.

          As currently, they do hardly any of this, ofcourse they keep on doing the same as adults.
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    May 15 2011: Okay, I got to this 'conversation' rather late. Life Happens.

    I just finished reading every comment made. I have to admit I'm extremely surprised. The question was very simple: Should we (or should we not) ask children about 'mundane world' problems. Rather simple, eh? Should or shouldn't we ask kids X, Y, or Z? What I read was a bunch of stuff going off on tangents all over the place! Children should be allowed to play -- sorry, they're going to do that no matter what -we- think we're "doing". Children haven't got the 'vast worldly experience' we (supposedly) 'older & wiser' adults have -- so what? That's exactly why we're asking them, because, among many other things, they haven't yet 'learned' the lie of "you can't do that!" Etc. Etc. Etc. Et phooey!

    Good Grief, people, Pietro simply asked 'should we ask kids for their opinions & ideas' .. that's it. =Then=, if we answered 'yes', he asked for ideas about -how- to go about doing that. To me it's very simple -- "Yes, No, Maybe" followed by 'how', =how=, after only two of the answers. But many of the answers -actually- pointed out some of the major obstacles to the über-question, which is =could= =WE= actually -listen- =and= =hear= what they said!

    Personally, I think we'd do the very same thing as the UN delegates in Brazil did: listen politely, =maybe= even think about what was said .. and then go right back to what 'really matters' -- egos, power-trips, and money. It sucks. It's =S.T.U.P.I.D= beyond belief. It's harsh. But there it is.

    But remember something =very= important -- the kids solved a Major World Crisis in -a- =week= .. because they weren't loaded down with Egos or Power-trips. If =nothing= else, think about =that= for a few moments.......
  • May 2 2011: Having wrestled with how to get young people involved in making decisions for many years now it may be a good idea for young people to have their own political party. You are automatically a member of it if you are below 25 and have to leave when you become 26. The anyone of the appropriate age could stand as a candidate in local elections and anyone eligible can vote for them. I want to live in a world where you people are enfranchised. It ought to be about listening to the young and not pretending to give them a voice.
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    Apr 29 2011: Listening to John Hunter, I was struck by his incredible humility. In person, John is a mountain of a man with a deep authoritative voice that could easily hijack any discussion in which he chooses to participate. And yet... his approach to his elementary school students reveals a tremendous amount of respect and deference to the childrens' ideas.

    Shouldn't we, an older generation of leaders. approach the world's toughest problems with the same humility? Shouldn't we be open to fresh, child-like ideas and approaches that are not jaded? Shouldn't we enact systems to be able to "hear" their feedback?

    The power of crowdsourcing relies on the confluence of many, divergent perspectives. Why not have a humble enough approach to include the input of children?
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    Apr 29 2011: My view is that it is unfair and borderline immoral to expect children to help solve world problems. Where are our priorities as teachers and parents?

    Yes, there are 15 year old Einsteins out there somewhere... They will make themselves known. But for the rest of the children (99.9 percent) ask them to join you in this great thing called learning and life.
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      Apr 29 2011: Hi Jim,
      I think our priorities are to engage children in the process of "this great thing called learning and life", as you say. The World Peace Game, for example, does not seem to create expectations that children help solve world problems, at this moment. It is an educational game from which kids can learn to think, feel and make decisions.

      As you say, probably 99.9 percent of the children are not Einsteins...or maybe with encouragement they could be:>) However, do we want to wait around until the Einsteins "make themselves known" and are willing to solve the world problems? Or, is it a good idea to get the 99.9 percent of our people engaged in the process? What better way can we "ask them to join you in this great thing called learning and life", then participating in this global game that is fun, entertaining, and teaches some very valuable lessons?
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        Apr 30 2011: Yes, as long as the game expectations are not to solve world problems but instead learn how to problem solve, it is a great way to engage children in the world they live in. I'm a big believer in play!
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          Apr 30 2011: I agree. We don't need to put the weight of the world on their shoulders, but rather incorporate their play with problem solving ideas.

          I also agree with your statement below that "good intentions are not always good ideas". Sometimes, HOW we do something, is as important, or more important than what we are doing.
    • Apr 30 2011: There's really nothing unfair or immoral in asking for help. It's not as if you were locking the kids in the basement and saying " you're not coming out as long as you don't solve the nuclear energy problem!"

      This world is theirs just as much as it is ours. And one day, it will be only theirs. I think it's better that we start early working together, to pass the world to them gently, put it in their hands. We shouldn't just toss it to them the day we die, saying "Here it is son, it's crappy but it's all we've got."
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        Apr 30 2011: I think that good intentions are not always good ideas. Let children be children. If the question is "should we ask children to help us solve world problems" my answer is an emphatic "No!".

        As teachers, parents and as a society, our responsibility is to prepare children for the world they will inherit, but that does not mean we actually ask them to help solve the world's problems in any meaningful way! I am not implying that we shield them from the world's problems, simply saying that it is developmentally inappropriate to expect children to help solve world problems - and they don't want to!!

        To speak to your comment that "the world is theirs as much as it is ours and that some day it will be only theirs" does not make sense.
        • Apr 30 2011: my point on the last part is that it is their right to be interested in the world they are living in. But let's turn the question around: If a kid wants to help, will you listen to what he wants to say?

          And otherwise, as I said in my other comment, you ask them for help, but you don't really expect them to do miracles, to sort everything out. You ask children for help to stimulate them. Develop their curiosity, get them interested in the entangled society we live in. You also show that their opinion counts and that they can make a difference. It's also a good opportunity for parents and children to get together to communicate.

          You state it's developmentally inappropriate to expect children to help. Can you be more precise please? What are the advert consequences that will stem from it?
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        May 4 2011: As I've said earlier in this conversation, without specifying what age child we are refering to, it is nearly impossible to judge the merits of the comment. For example, to think a child under the age of 12 should be in any way significantly engaged in adult conversations about the world's problems is developmentally inappropriate.
        Should we as adults be explaining the world to them and listening to them as they react to it? Emphatically YES! But not, in my opinion, asking them to help solve the world's problems. If for no other reason than it would be a misuse of our time with them.
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    Apr 28 2011: Absolutely not. Kids need time to be kids. They need time to run and jump and skip stones across a pond and play in mud puddles and dream. They will have a lifetime to deal with world problems. Youth is fleeting. Allow them those few fleeting years of innocence.
  • Apr 28 2011: The question implies that if we get a solution from kids (or anyone), it can be magically implemented. Asking "kids" is a well intentioned exercise, however, without meaning. Responsibility and accountability are things we should be teaching to our kids in real and practical ways. Without either, or both... there is no learning. We must take responsibility and make changes that improve society. We must learn from the past, both our own immediate, and objective historical records. All too often we experiment with "change" and sit back satisfied with our efforts and uninterested in analyzing the long term effects of the events we set in motion. So my answer specifically to the question: Ask away, but expect naive answers, much the same as our own, since there is little evidence actions will be built upon real world experience and consequence.
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    Apr 27 2011: Here's a thought that challenges the status quo yet offers a viable solution. Combining the brilliance of children with the wisdom of the aged, the world could indeed become a much improved place.

    The generally hedonistic and hegemonic 18 to 55 year olds would relinquish control, close their mouth, open their ears, pay the taxes; do the work they're told to thereby allowing these two 'book-end' groups to focus on making better decisions for our world.

    Before you get all sulky and pout because your fragile ego might be bruised, think for a minute.

    How might children and the elderly collectively view a proposal to go to war?

    Both groups would quickly dispatch this as a really stupid idea and promptly proceed to enjoy a walk/play in the park, plant/pick a garden/flowers, pet/walk a dog/cat, enjoy a glass of milk/tea, colour/paint a picture or even take a nap.

    Guns would be made of wood, tanks would hold water and bombs would just smell and make us giggle.

    That status-craving automobile is way cool only because it's bright shiny red. That over-sized opulent condo/house earns its two thumbs up awesomeness based solely on its tire swing.

    Try to imagine the possibilities. Non hormone-driven decision-making. Priceless.

    Would this ever happen? Not in a million years (a very conservative estimate).

    The 18 to 55 year olds have the power, crave the power and are not likely ever to relinquish control. What would be their motivation?

    The elderly might agree, if only to protect the children from these well-meaning but misguided adults who somewhat jealously view play time as wasted time. Why do they have this need to see children in business suits?
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      Apr 29 2011: I agree we forget to listen to the elders. In practical sense in the Netherlands, we ask retired math and physics teachers to explain underperforming kids, kids with an AHDH stamp, to explain the concepts of Math and Physics as a whole, resulting in kids catching up with the rest.

      I agree to get inspired by children how they solve challenges in games. Computer Games are more and more connected to their real world, so we just need to observe... and let them play.

      There are good teaching methods lost and new teaching methods discovered, we just need to find a way to bring the 'best' together....
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        Apr 29 2011: Paul, it matters nothing that I agree with you on this, but I do. Well said.
  • Apr 21 2011: While their innocence and clarity of thought is attractive, they are still children. Even if we could somehow successfully get them to understand the complexity of it, all children lack the experience necessary to make monumental decisions in global socio-political environments.

    It's one thing to understand through knowledge, yet another through wisdom as well.
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      Apr 22 2011: Actually I think that their lack of knowledge might give them the space to come up with really creative ideas. Somehow the fact that we have always done in a certain way, precludes us the possibility to even think along different routes.

      But all this is about creativity. You rise a fair point about wisdom. And this is why adults would in any case be there and would decide at the end what should be done.
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        Apr 22 2011: I am fully in agreement with Pietro's ideas that children's lack of preconceived notions is a huge advantage in reformulating the solutions to problems. They are free from prejudices about the way things 'are done' so that they can challenge and sidestep the assumptions that cripple many adults. Just because something could not be done at one time does not mean that conditions have not changed sufficiently to allow them to be done now.
        While I love the idea of a carefree childhood I think most kids are not as enamoured by that idea. Some want to sink their teeth into 'real' things. They should never be forced to participate but my own kids would have loved such a challenge and the respect that it indicated from adults. They would soon enough have lost interest and moved on to other interesting things.
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          Apr 22 2011: Agreed! I remember when I was a kid how frustrating was not to be allowed to do anything "for real".
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          Apr 22 2011: Yes, I loved having deep and worldly conversations with my university-trained parents, and they loved hearing their implanted notions, values and ideas spouted verbatim back to them too.

          It was great being the prodigal son. While still a grammar school student I was encouraged to develop solutions for all non-British immigrants wanting to come to our land. My proud parents fully endorsed this plan, as did many people at the club.

          Then I went and became an adult and developed my very own, and quite different, opinions and now we don't see eye-to-eye so much anymore. But now my children have the most appropriate, and may I say, brilliant notions, values and ideas. The world would do well to listen to them. I think I could even go so far as to say I would endorse their ideas, as I recognize them as my own.
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          Apr 24 2011: I think there is a way to maintain "carefree" while engaging in meaningful projects during childhood. Mainly, the feeling of "carefree" can be maintained if children know they are fully supported by adults, are free from neglect or harm, have the shelter, food, clothing, and love that they need, are still allowed to be playful children.
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          May 4 2011: Debra you are right......knowledge and preconceived notions are not the same concept.
          Knowledge comes from the inside-insight and always IS .......preconceived notions passes by because it comes from outside.
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        jag .

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        Apr 22 2011: Exactly, the children dont have all that mind clutter and social conditioning in their head, so they have more of that 'silent' space from which creativity arises.
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        Apr 24 2011: Mr. Mercer, You are assuming that the sort of indoctrination and the initimate influence that a parent can exert is also common in educational environments. There is a difference between inviting a child to make a contribution as John Hunter did in his world peace game and the painful past you appear to have endured. Don't you think that the child you were would have relished the chance to think and engage on his own terms
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          Apr 24 2011: Ms Smith, I have made no such assumption. This is of your design and projection, not mine.

          As for my past, it was not painful in the least. Merely boringly typical. Though I do appreciate the therapy session.
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          May 4 2011: My experience was that I found my parents' (and "adults" in general) ideas and views to be woefully off the mark . I would argue constantly with them about issues and forge my own ideas. That is almost a given in terms of a person's development - to question authority.
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        Apr 24 2011: OK, I stand corrected and I apologize for what you consider therapy. Can you clarify for me what you were trying to communicate in your post above where you referred to your parents? I would also like to understand whether or not you think a kid could or should be engaged to solve the world's problems.
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          Apr 24 2011: I am very supportive of children being asked to get involved. What I am debating is the degree of thought and consideration that is being put into this concept. Clapping each other on the back following the sharing of regenerated cliches doesn't move anything forward. Harsh, I know.

          I am also cognizant and sensitive of citizens who are disadvantaged, neglected and forgotten. They will have to wait and watch people's children have their ideas championed yet again before they are heard.

          Oh the rest of us TEDers will wring our hands and propose honourable solutions but provide no power or voice to them. We will talk about them, at them, and for them but we will not listen to them.

          Who are these people? Don't know any? Every community has them.
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        Apr 24 2011: Mr. Mercer, Could you tell me who you are worried will be excluded? Is it the young adults who have little chance of influence because Boomers are holding on to positions of power?
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          Apr 24 2011: Ah good one. It's the battle of the ages.
          Those boomers have to go, right?

          They are like some delinquent client - an account that no longer requires attention and respect. Their usefulness is past - we've gotten what we wanted from them. It's just business. Don't take it personal. Is that how its done?
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          Apr 26 2011: Ms Smith, what do you mean by, "because boomers are holding positions of power?"

          This sounds as if boomers are acting selfishly. Another presumption on my part.
      • Apr 24 2011: I wonder about adults having wisdom to use in solving our problems we presuppose children don't have. If we have this wisdom, it is very obvious we haven't used it and this has been so, for about 2200 years. So, that isn't very wise, since the same s--t (history) has repeated itself, and in our "wisdom", we accept it. Where's the wisdom? It's just another embedded, false belief we react from and think we know what we are talking about. We are extremely self-deceived. Please consider the long studies, experiments and analysis done about deception, self-deception and warfare (of all kinds). Self-deception is the active misrepresentation of reality to ones conscious mind. Deception is the active misrepresentation of reality to another's conscious mind. Humans hold both truth and false simultaneously, but, the truth is kept in the unconscious and the false in the conscious!! That was a surprise. Therefore, when one hears the real truth, they cannot recognize it and resist it because they are self-deceived. This really works against our making the right choices and changes because in a sense so much falseness has usurped the rightful seat of what should be our guiding authority-The Truth, not authority as the truth, meaning not religion, not government, not experts, not economists, not politicians. Children don't have this, but ah, they are only children, they don't know about the complexities, blah, blah,. Screw all that. On one blank wall, it reads, "get rid of your institutions" On another wall, it reads varying message after message about "what if?", "how will we?", "what about?", "we can't!", "that doesn't make sense", and on and on until they are written over one another, hiding any one of them that might be a good one, until we can't read or make sense of them or what to do. That is complexity. WE, adults do that, and WE adults can't make sense of that and we look at the other wall that clearly says, "get rid of your institutions", and still don't know what to do.
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          Apr 24 2011: Patience yolanda. The human brain has not undergone further development for 10,000 years, but any day now...
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          Apr 26 2011: Mr, Mercer- Now who is making assumption? I am a Boomer but I was trying to understand your cryptic writing style.
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        May 6 2011: @ Jaime, I hope you see my response down here!
        Are you an educator? You seem to have great insights into these issues.
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          May 11 2011: Alo Debra I dedicate a nice amount of my time to education in tne Jesuit university and for kindergarden kids. I design a lot of toys and sistems for education.

          I didn't see your question....till right now.

          The kids can do everything because they don't know that they can't do it.
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    May 20 2011: Kids are too inexperienced and not-yet-fully-wired to really help us with multi-faceted complex issues. Issues that deal with nasty stuff like greed, underhandedness, flagrant dishonesty and corruption. Their brains literally cannot conceptualize these things. And to manoeuvre around a world of problems that deal with adults of this description, requires full realization of what's at hand.

    BUT what kids can do is inspire us to be like them. Their attitude to life is what we need to emulate. We know too much and have seen too much compared to them, and as a result, we tend to walk around in life out-of-love, uninspired, in-constant fear of being let down, again. Kids cry and wake up fresh the next morning. Whenever I travel somewhere new, or take on a new project out of my expertise or comfort-zone, I feel like a kid again. I have my adult wits about me, but suddenly I'm liberated from caring about being wrong or doing something non-sensibly. It liberates my sense of discovery and experiment. When I go back into the "real" world, I can clearly see the shackles. The effect wears off, so I need to always be trying new things, to regain that sense of heightened wonder---if only to get perspective on my "real" adult life. It's a great cycle.
  • May 10 2011: Children really care and really have the answers. They want to be involved, Though i feel we should also protect them by telling them we are in this all together,protect them against feeling overly responsable or powerless to do something. We do it all together. It would be the best idea to listen to the children. Their ideas are often brilliant in simplicity. If we would really listen, all world problems would end real soon. Kids know. They always strife for the good, the simple real good, for harmony, love, health, peace and abundance for all. Kids know happiness for all is the only way to real happiness. Children love to see others real happy. How else can we be really happy, when our friends are not? It's a releave.. it allows them to be free and happy too, so they can be their brilliant creative selves, the way they were born. Happy together, this is where co-creating can really start and add all our wonderful diverse talents. If we listen to and really understand kids we surely find the way to global peace, to happiness for all, all in our authentic way, so that all brilliance can fall into it's original place. Actually we simply have to watch the children (before disrupted too much by judgemental school-systems, fighting parents etc) and we see the simple, truthful, easy, joyfull and harmonious way. I will contribute to create schoolsystems that actually allow children to develop from within, inspired by the environment, with real support for THEM, where they are seen and not judged. No grades. Where they can learn in safety and joy, where they are empowered and can follow their natural passion. CHildren WANT to learn and grow, and be a part of this world. Find who am I? and how do I relate to the world? where does my passion go, where do my authentic exciting talents come in gooood? children are naturally active. Before being judged, controlled and 'teached' by sow called grown ups. Schools where it is ok to be happy, play and have fun. Happiness now.
  • May 8 2011: "Should we ask kids to help us solving the real world problems?"

    Yes! But more than ask. Let them take over.

    We should especially give them the keys to the nuclear warheads, the missiles, bombs, subs, aircraft, tanks. grenades, flame throwers. I suspect they will find good use for these, smelting sculpture for beautifying public parks, or creating tools for gardening. Take away all the keys and heave them. Take the adults back to the stone age, before all of us are forced to join them, or worse.

    I should not worry that they might imprison those who run Guantanamo and all the other centres of fear projection and torture; those who forcibly mutilate a woman's clitoris, or slice off the end of a boy's penis. They shall just remove the knives, the bibles, the koran's, the "authority", and all the other nonsense and tell us, pointedly, that it is time to grow up and, reflecting back our "adult" language, to "get a life".

    As in Montessori educational philosophy, it is not we who teach the children - it is they who teach us.

    Start learning.
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      May 8 2011: Yes. start by listening more to children's conversations (amongst themselves). They know more than we give them credit for.
      Just present them with what the real challenges we are facing as adults and let them be. Do not try to teach them first "how to come up with solutions". Given the time and space, they might just suprise you.
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    May 7 2011: Yes I am in favor of asking kids because
    Firstly those problem also impacts them (as kid many times I heard elderly people discussing many issues thinking I have no idea as I am kid, but truth is I had idea & understood what they are talking about).
    Secondly somewhere I read Einstein said at the age of 3 & half kids understand enough of Physics, so the must be able to understand those problem you are talking about to certain extent.

    We can use internet to get them involve i.e. can have TED-KID as a platform to get ideas from Kids
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    May 7 2011: 'And a child shall lead them." Here is an inspirational video from India that demonstrates the wisdom of a child and how following their example can lead us all forward. (NIce work India!)

  • May 6 2011: Yes, children still know how to harness the power of the imagination. Some of the greatest insights in the world are tucked away in the imagination. Allow them to dream big and harness the power of their imaginations and you will be amazed at the shift that takes place in our world. It all lies in the ability to think, to imagine and to dream.
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    May 6 2011: at my high school several teachers are using them as free labor. welding class for school repairs, an english class built a achool in ecuador and the special education students built a greenhouse this year. It does not seem realistic to allow children to make the decisions, but their voices should be seriously considered. i cannot think of a reason not to let them participate in local think tanks and such. at use them for manual labor in trade for an impressive college application.
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    May 5 2011: I agree to a certain extent with your philosophy. I might add another point too. Kids at an early age are also pure, innocent and they know somehow right from wrong. They would come up with the simplest form of an answer that makes complete sense to them which is through the eyes of something that doesn't know deceit yet. We could use they're creative answers in certain cases to formulate a plan which goes into much further detail.
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    May 4 2011: Of course, yes! The thing is that the real world problems affect to children too and because of that they have the right to express their ideas about them. Is not only a matter of their capacity to solve them, but about their right to participate. Do you know the Convention on the Children's Rights?

    Real world problems could be global warming, but also to have a safe environment to play in the neighborhood, for example. Word problems, local problems, family problems, etc. and children are aware of all that. They also are willing to help and live better. It's not true that by thinking and working on those problems children give away their childhood. It's amazing how they put so much joy in all the matters that interested them. They can clearly separate play from work. Both activities are very important for them.

    The key is to let them participate in their own ways and not to expect that their partcipation should be like ours, acting as small adults, doing the things as we adults do. Also is very important to let them decide if they want to help or not.

    I know this by experience because I've work with them on social participation projects for years. If you want to know more about this work in Mexico, you can go to: www.lajugarreta.org.mx

    Thanks for this interesting debate!!
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    May 3 2011: Agreed! Let their voices be heard! Yes, it is time for us to incorporate them into our conversations even more. They have a lot of things to say. As an educator I experienced their creativity and, their different perspectives in the classroom. It was actually very inspiring! I have witnessed educators doing a lot of great things in the classrooms. In particularly, by working with innovative technology to reach other venues of communication with others.
  • May 3 2011: i agree with you partly,but i dont think that children can reaaly come up with the construtive ideas to solve the social problem ,you know children are still a immature group both at physical and mental .And they are easily affected by their own emotions,so in the controversial issues ,they cant have any real solutions ,instead,they would judge the thing only by emotions.But i admit that they are creative ,maybe they can design good stuff or do something differently ,but they never can solve a real problem especially social problem.
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    May 3 2011: Marketeers have long recognized the power of children to influence the world they live in. Just consider the swathe of product commercials aimed at children to get them to influence the behavior in their lives. So there is no doubt that children carry immense power to influence their world. So, with that thought, go the next step and ask children how they could influence adults to behave more sustainably, act with more tolerance, behave more peacefully. Children know their power, we as adults just need to be brave enough to encourage their ideas and act upon them with the help of the children.
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    May 1 2011: Kids bring a freshness of perspective to viewing a problem, provided the problems can be framed in a way where kids can understand them.

    Working through problem solving with kids can provide kids with growth experiences and building a sense of community when their voices are heard on important problems.

    Having said that, I also believe that adults have difficult times problem solving with other adults, and in those cases, adding kids to the mix would be counter-productive.

    Modeling the apprentice-journeyman-master system might be a good way to include kids in problem solving - provided the journeymen and masters have the mindset that they are mentors and stewards as well.

    Thank you for an interesting question.
  • May 1 2011: I think that we as educators do not focus enough on world problems in our classroom. Our days seem to continually fall into set routines with little room for exploration of the world around us. I think Zoe Weil's talk is a great example of how we can get students more involved if we give them the opportunity. Of course I am referring to my favorite topic of inquiry learning which this talk cleary exemplifies. There is a great resource blog for educators wishing to embrace inquiry learning at www.inquirylearning.ca
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    May 1 2011: After viewing Zoe Weil's tedtalk (thank you Adam Burk for referencing it below) I feel differently (i love when that happens!) Very much looking forward to learning more about the humane education project. Zoe's statement early on in her talk that "schooling" is the answer to most - if not all - of the world's most pressing problems is, in a sense, recognizing the elephant in the room.
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    May 1 2011: The fact of using the imagination or maybe only original and unique ideas isn't that easy for kids/youngsters. As you just said : "Of course the long term effect psychological of this experience on them should be considered.". What comes first is motivation.
    Philosophers proved that we are born with the knowledge and that by the time, with the help of training, we learn how to use it. Being one a student councils myself, we consider asking our fellows and friends about their opinions, yet we rarely ask them about their thoughts and ideas (rarely does not mean never, we already did it many times). Because the fact of electing few students, that then become presenters of the school's committee.
    Personally, I think that you weren't much precise. I cannot answer your question properly since you probably forgot to add a given and precise age for what "kids" are.
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    May 1 2011: Yes, making them participate in actions related empirical learning, and evaluating the campaigns posted in institutes and its results.
  • May 1 2011: Oh and I'd like to add something here:

    For a lot of problems, we don't need the children to help because we know very well the answers. But these answers are only applicable in a game, because in real life they will demand a lot of sacrifices from each of us. And that sadly, is just not gonna happen.

    I remember toward the end of the World peace game ted talk, he talks about that huge donation to a poor country to win the game. Of course it's cute that a kid is willing to give away all his fake monopoly bills, but if you do that in real life, people in your own country will get so mad at you, they will get you killed.

    There's usually a huge gap between what needs to be done, and what we end up doing.
  • Apr 30 2011: Your idea is excellent, in my opinion. I taught English , as a second language, and delighted in the pragmatic approach to life of my --of course .... gifted pupils. In our small community, as a member of the council, I have requested incorperating at least one youngster, to refresh our outlook. I am the oldest member at 80! Our village is small, approx: 400 souls. Maybe, at that level, one could begin tapping in to our young people's fresh and innovative ideas. The challenge of dealing with bright , capable youngsters is , unfortunately, not always palatable to the rigid minded.
  • Apr 28 2011: You have got to be kidding me.
    Creative? Kids pretty much act out and repeat what they see. They have very limited capactiy to do something original, because they have no background experience. Have you seen what a kid creates out of legos compared to what an adult is capable of doing with legos?
    As for social empathy, you guys seem to forget the bullying that takes place in schools.
    Have you read the essays that kids write for school? They're not exactly inspiring
    Name a specific instance where a child did something truly significant that didn't involve explaining a fantasy to a doling parent.
    • Apr 29 2011: What? "Kids pretty much act out and repeat what they see" ? Erm....and adults don't do that anymore? If I take your lego example, adults will only build super realistic cars, machines, buildings, basically things that they saw and learned about. Maybe tweaking it just a little, and that's what people call creativity.

      And I think you're a bit too demanding toward the children.... Write inspiring essays? Do significant things? Even 80% of adults will never have the chance to do that kind of stuff in their whole life!

      Kids are not dumb! They are just highly unexperienced. Which is also a good thing because they don't have their opinions and prejudices already carved in stone.

      We should ask the children for help, but not because somehow we expect them to find the solution to our problems right away. We need to ask them for help to encourage them to communicate with us, show that their opinion counts, show that you trust and believe in them, believe in their potential.

      But of course it depends the age we're talking about here. At much younger ages, some mud puddles playing, hitting-trees-with-branches, terrorizing insects moments are indeed necessary.
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      Apr 29 2011: Good point Paul.
      "Kids pretty much act out and repeat what they see". That's a very good indication that perhaps some adults need to change behaviors to give the kids something better to model. Kids will often live up to the expectations of the adults around them.

      I agree Ruining Wang, that we need to encourage them, communicate with them, listen to their opinions, show that we trust and believe in them and their potential. We can influence kids by 'being" what we want to see. We are not going to positively influence them by putting them down.
  • Apr 28 2011: well! Education of children about being active members in their own communities and teaching them about the effect of each person in this world in making positive change in the world. Recruiting them in different programs starting from volunteering to help other kids, like sick kids in hospitals or in orphan houses, what I want to say is helping them to be active and show them the way to be so!
  • Apr 27 2011: It is a well known fact that almost every baby is born a genius. It does not seem so far fetched that children might hold the answer to our future social organization. It is one of the things that haunts me day an night. A new born baby can assimilate information hundreds of times faster than me. Concerning the issue at hand i think it is brilliant and this should have been done hundreds of years ago. As Phillipp says it is unethical to trow such a responsability on the soulders of our children. If you want to think like a kid all you need to do is not concentrate on logic so much. It serves us well in day to day operations but in order to see the bigger picture you need to accept the unacceptable in your mind. What we call genius is actually our brains cappacity to make fast correlation between the elements presented and come up not with one viable answer but hundreds.
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    Apr 25 2011: Yes! I absolutely believe we can and should engage young people whenever possible. We don't have to "present the problem in all its complexity to them". We really only need to be open to them, willing to talk and listen to their questions and ideas. Children are naturally curious, desire to be engaged with people, and love to explore. We can be open to giving them whatever information they want, at any given time. It is up to us, as adults to intuitively know how and when to offer information. Children will often openly, honestly, trustingly ask, questions. The process could be anything from every day conversations, to more complex programs like the World Peace Games.

    A story comes to mind: When my daughter was about 4-5 years old, she came to me with the question..."where did I come from?" My practice was to give honest information to the kids, so as I was contemplating how I was honestly going to answer the question....(how much of the reproductive process is a 4-5 year old ready for?), she got impatient with me and said..."you know, my friend Suzie is from Burlington, where did I come from?". Awwww....she wanted to know the town she came from...nothing about the reproductive process. I simply tell this story to point out that kids will often be clear, if we patiently listen to them, and get out of our own way:>)
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    Apr 24 2011: TEDxDirigo speaker Zoe Weil addresses this issue directly and lays out how education can be transformed to engage students to become solutionaries. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5HEV96dIuY&p=39D3B050AD6536EA
  • Apr 24 2011: Children are brilliant. They may not have much in the way of tarnishing, worldly experience, but they need to be listened to without all the "yes-but" chatter going on in the heads and minds of the adults, who think they're really listening to them. Stop saying, they are only children! Mainly we have institutions, such as religion and our educational system, whose primary goals (their ulterior motive), it appears to me are the destruction of the spirit. That's what "conversion" has been all about. Recently, a video of a family whose youngest son likes to dress in pretty things and girly things was lovingly resolved when the older son, (6-9 I think) simply said to mom, "why don't you let him be happy?" She heard it for what it was, not all the chatter that had been going on in her mind and that had swayed her to try and change him.
    So things like religion, that first and foremost teach that our natural inclinations are wrong, immoral or sinful, needs to go. People are like societies and communities in the sense they are always emergent and not static, fixed, which means stagnant and dying. Unless people can "hear" clearly, they won't accept "new" ideas because they will clash with the fixed stuff in their heads, that have petrified in there, and in a sense, new stuff petrifies them from hearing it, seeing it, accepting it and going for it. Fear. We always smile to the child and say, yes but it isn't that easy or that simple, but it is. Simple is usually better because it lacks all the clutter, visual, psychic, emotional, and mental, that keeps us resistant to really new change for the better. Where I live, no one wants to think differently. They just can't imagine a new world without all the old, failed, broken and unfixable institutions and ways of thinking, believing and being, being a part of what they so desperately wish for! It's like swinging on a playground ladder, where in order to grab hold and move to the next rung (system), one must let go of the old.
  • Apr 24 2011: I am now 17, so still a child according to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. I am a member of Kids' Dream (KD), a child-led organisation in Hong Kong working on child rights. And the focus of KD is child participation. In fact, many of the real world problems are closely related to children, such as provety, education, environmental problems, etc. Therefore, we should let kids to contribute to the solutions of the world problems. This is because children are the experts of these problems. They are living with the problems and so, they know what can help them the best. Also, adults need inspirations from children, form the perspectives of a child. They need the views of children to help them to think out of the box. Sometimes, adults' creativity are restricted by the inertial thinking.
  • Apr 24 2011: I am not sure if children are born creative, but I am sure that children are being born with a creative ability that stretches far beyond that of most adults. The ability lies within how they can think. An example can be if a child is drawing most adults see nothing more than doodles on a white piece of paper. If the child is asked to tell something about the drawing in most cases they can tell in detail what it is they have created. Often complex stories come out that at first don't always make sense, but if taken time (more than 1 minute) it is possible to come to an understanding of what the drawing represents and what the thought is behind it.

    This translating process is something that should be applied both directions. Make a problem understandable to a child and he or she will come up with a solution to it. The only problem is whether or not we can understand and are willing to act upon it.

    Ps: children do make up for a high percentage of the worlds population. Maybe it is time to use their creativity and expertise on being a child because the world could really benefit from it.
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    Si Xie

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    Apr 24 2011: Sometimes, kids do help. Because they are new to the world and knowledge , they hold some fantasy ideas that adults may never come up. Also, they have different kind of view to observe and analysis a problem. Hence, kids is a brilliant way when problem needs suggestion.
    That is to say, kids is one way to obtain the suggestion, and we can compare their advice with the reality and science, than there may come out the solution!
    • Apr 25 2011: Rom si Xie - Quote about children: "Because they are new to the world and knowledge , they hold some fantasy ideas that adults may never come up. (with?)
      I like that. I think that really nails it. It is fantasy in a way or seems like it, but it is so new, refreshing, out-of-the-box, for sure there is going to be something there that adults can put into action, that they can get behind. That is one area we might come in handy. There is nothing like having spontaneous understanding about something, because that is outside the rules, walls, and limits of experience, definition and common usage, not inside, where humans seem to have boxed themselves in.

      And I must add that while it is true and something to be watched and handled carefully, what E A Mercer says below about letting us adults off, and putting even more stress into kids lives, I think many or most children would really like it, and if "we handle it like adults", meaning, we don't push it, don't expect it, demand it or in other negative ways relate to them or their ideas, lack of, or simply not being interested, then we won't be adding stress or pressure to their lives. And if it comes, which it will, we help them learn how to deal with it, even at kid level. I don't really believe in a "moral nature" of this or that. I do believe that if there is a moral nature to anything it must be in how we treat one another, so how we would treat and handle children if and when we might seek their active, willing help, would be IMHO, very important and key, I don't think the Hubris Race, ah, sorry, meant the Human Race, is in a position to eliminate new ideas, anyway.

      Besides, learning, becoming more educated and knowledgeable, along with gaining understanding and experience, means or leads to smarter people, even kids, making better and wiser decisions for themselves and their fellow wo/man. It might, I don't know, give them a real sense of empowerment, even if small, and help with the fear of the big, bad, world
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        Si Xie

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        Apr 27 2011: Yes, I like what your saying. That's true for the kids.
        New, refresh and has lots of space for improvement.
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      Apr 27 2011: you all are right kids....should be well motivated and moulded inorder to get good things out of them..and its the job of elders to figure how to do so ..
  • Apr 23 2011: Pietro, I invite you to check out GiG (global innovation game)...young people from 19 countries are playing, taking on real-world challenges in a real-time virtual market for the emerging global ideas economy. Buy, back and bash your way to the top of the market using our iCaps virtual currency. Coming soon: our GiG4Good feature, which will trigger deeds for good worldwide based on GiG content. Find us at: facebook.com/playGiG (click Go to App)
  • Apr 23 2011: I've recently been in schools working on a creative project, so this is on my mind.

    I think the concept of a 'carefree childhood' is romantic. Children are more sensitive, and tend to 'care' a lot more than adults do, they are like sponges taking information without the protective filters & judgements of an adult. I remember crying myself to sleep about driftnet fishing at 7-8 years old. I don't think I was a particularly 'aware' child either. I think there's a lack of respect for children as citizens who feel and think and should be able to impact what is going on around them (although work is being done on this)

    I agree it's about responsibility, it's not fair or reasonable to expect kids to fix all the problems created by adults, or desirable to burden them...but I don't think that is really what is being asked here (?)

    I don't think it's cowardice to say kids might be better at creative problem solving, or noble to keep them powerless to implement changes they would like to see. 'Not knowing anything' can be a strength, also called beginners mind in some philosophies. Perhaps they won't fully grasp the complexities of the problems of the world...but actually, I don't either.

    So yes, I absolutely think they should be involved; the 8 year old me who felt sad about the world and totally impotent would have loved the opportunity to find solutions and be listened to.

    What's the framework? Perhaps make it a game, make it a puzzle or friendly competition, remove the 'running out of time' element, focus on creativity. Use hopeful language, engender excitement not fear. Give specific problems with clear parameters, not general ones. Make it clear that this is asking for advice not laying responsibility, use skilled facilitators. Most importantly be prepared to act on the ideas and have paradigms challenged, so it's not a false consultation...hang on...isn't this true for all problem solving? Kids are people too ;)
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    Apr 23 2011: I don't believe that asking children to solve real world problems is an act of cowardice but it is something akin to it.

    Adults should be let off the hook that easily? Children are already too regularly targeted and abused. How about encourage kids to go out and play. They're inactive, obese and display health issues common to seniors. Maybe adults today are too pampered and just aren't used to working hard. Sure its tough but its your responsibility, not some child's.

    Most world problems already have defined solutions. Whether we choose to act upon them is the key.

    Canada as a case in point is a good example of inaction in action. As one of the biggest offenders to the environment we have a noticeable increase in the number of luxury SUVs parked outside the mall. Fuel efficiency is trumped by conspicuous consumption desires. Seen the size of homes being built in the new sub-divisions? Living in less than 2000 sq ft is now considered unthinkable. Add one child and there is an immediate need to up-size.

    Not just concern for the environment? Well then our present Canadian adults are cleverly spending 150% of their income (see house and luxury SUV and add Cuban and Mexican holidays). This surpasses the spending level that saw the collapse of the American economy. Isolated instance? Seen the list of European economies now in collapse?

    We could begin with children demonstrating what responsibility means to their parents. If they can provide a model that helps this obviously ill-prepared generation of parents, then OK we're getting somewhere.
  • Apr 23 2011: "The child is father of the man"; children are the essence of purity and humanity..for example, they become friends in the playground regardless of color, religion, or any other differences; they know how to be happy and enjoy the moment..
    Maybe they can provide with an answer to world problems although most of the problems have solutions, but for some reason it's too difficult to accomplish.. What's great about this idea, the children will become aware of our present imperfections, and hopefully this will motivate them to become better leaders and thinkers..
  • Apr 22 2011: Don't you remember being a kid? They think they know everything but really they know nothing, I don't think we need anymore of that.
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    Apr 22 2011: A carefree childhood . . . is there any nobler cause? Problems like that of which you speak are for adults only, in my mind. Helping with the dishes is not.

    A carefree childhood leads to an adult able to deal with world problems.
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      Apr 22 2011: exactly how i feel about this. just because im jealous that there living model is wayyyyy better than mine doesnt meen i should ruin it for them
    • Apr 23 2011: Its such a relative term- "carefree"- if we can't define it then how can we assess the impact of it?

      More personally- if my manic depressive mom (stable now) had not shared with us our financial situation with her as a single mother and sharing a room with my little bother in a 900 square foot apartment- I would NOT be where I am now.

      What I am trying to say is- subjugation to reality and emotional distress, can, with other parental practices, galvanize a child- making them stronger and more dedicated than they would have been otherwise.
  • Apr 22 2011: Values are important. What does a child value? It depends on how old they are, I think, and also what their parents teach them. They won't make the same choice as an adult, because they have different values, unless they were taught to be passionate about a certain value, then they would make the same choice as an adult and it wouldn't matter. At what age does empathy enter the picture? Before that, it's all instant gratification.

    Creativity? Well, doesn't creativity come from taking previous knowledge and connecting it in a different way to create something new? Children may be able to come up with different connections, but they don't have the same arsenal of knowledge that an older person does. Then again, they may be aware of more aspects of one subject, and be able to make more connections between fewer subjects.