What do you want to be when you grow up?
How many times were you asked this as a kid? Was your answer ever the same from month to month? Chances are that you’re not currently doing that job (and maybe you never will).
This question is bullshit.
Every time we ask a kid what they want to be when they grow up we’re doing them a disservice. This question is limiting in so many ways. You’re asking a kid to look years into the future and choose an arbitrary answer. One they probably don’t have the context to answer. And chances are the job they want won’t exist by the time they’re old enough to fill it. This question also strips children of the idea that they can make a positive impact on the world today.
What if we changed the question? What if we asked them what problem do you want to solve?
Instead of asking them what they want to do in 10 or 20 years let’s talk about what problem they want to solve today. And better yet – let’s empower them to try and solve it.
They would have to research the problem, identify what skills they’re missing, and work of shipping an incriment of work. By reframing the question in this way we’re training kids to take initiative, identify a problem, learn new skills, and solve it.
I don’t know what the future of work will look like in the coming decades, but I am certain that problem solving will be a crucial skill. So let’s redesign our education system to optimize for that and encourage students to direct their own learning and solve complex problems.
So, the next time you’re talking to a student ask her what problem she wants to solve. And then encourage her to try and solve it. Sure, she might not. But what if she can?
H/t to Jamie Casap for inspiration on this post.