The profession I most closely identify with has been challenged since I’ve entered into it, perhaps longer, with an identity crisis. This is not surprising; I believe that many others in education are hard-pressed to articulate why they teach what they teach.  To me, this discussion is very much about identifying the personal quality that one wants to develop in young children.  Language arts and English teachers strive to develop literacy in young people. Physical education teachers strive to teach lifelong physical fitness.

Most in my profession have wanted to hang their hats on the term “technological literacy,” especially since the release of the National Standards for Technological Literacy by the ITEEA in 2001.  Is technological literacy a personal quality? Yes. Is it measurable? Well, yes, but many would set out to measure someone’s proficiency using Microsoft Word in an effort to describe a young person’s “technological literacy.” Unfortunately, the time when my profession could have captured this term and made it their own has long since sailed away.

“Design” is a pretty understandable term, but it is not a personal quality. It’s more a verb or activity and also sounds like something art teachers teach. I’ve taught many students over the years about the design loop or the other design processes, but I’d rather hang my hat on a personal quality as an outcome of teaching.

Some like to use the term “engineering.”  Does “engineering” describe a great deal of what we teach and how we teach it? Yes, but engineering (the verb) doesn’t describe everything that I’d want children to develop through their education. Add to that the fact that engineering is the title of a very specific profession and you might see the problem with widespread adoption of the term as something desirable in every school for every student. Further, engineering is not really a measurable personal quality.

“Innovation” also sounds like a desirable thing. But, I’m not sure that you could call innovation a personal quality.  An innovation to me is more of a thing, a noun.  Yes, there is a describable process behind the term and I want young people to learn to innovate, but innovation really isn’t a personal quality.  Beyond that, innovation seems to have become pretty cliche in the current common vernacular.

There has been a recent rally around the term “STEM” in the realm of education among those in and around my profession.  Is it a very laudable goal that we should be striving toward to have more integrated learning especially at the high school level? Absolutely. But, that may be the best thing that will ever come from the acronym that as far as I can tell was first conceived as a way to organize funding streams instead of as a way to make interdisciplinary connections.  I’d also rather not describe what I’m about in terms of the acronym du jour, which will surely fade into the next catchy acrostic invention.

This brings me to the term “ingenuity,” the namesake of this blog.  Every student should be spending time in school developing their ingenuity, and lots of it.  Looking at some dictionary definitions of the term I find that it is a personal quality.  It’s a term that can be used in conjunction with talent.  There’s an outcome to be had from applying it.  Perhaps we haven’t yet found the most effective way to measure it in an educational setting, but in my heart of hearts I believe that it’s just as measurable as one’s physical fitness.  One can challenge themselves to develop their ingenuity and they can also put it on display in a competitive setting.

So, fifteen years into my education career, I think I’ve decided on the term that I’m going to “be about” and promote it’s development in our young people.  I want my own children to develop their ingenuity because I think it will make them every bit as successful in life as almost anything else.  I want the young people of our nation to develop their ingenuity because I think it’s what has always set us apart from others and I think that will continue.  I want others around the world to develop their ingenuity because with ingenuity becomes independence.


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