The Ingenuity Series: Q&A with Richard Worzel

Last week, I posed a question to author and leading futurist Richard Worzel in a Facebook Q&A session sponsored by Canada’s The Mark News.  Below is the excerpt from the conversation.

Janosz: What and how do we need to teach our young people to best prepare them for the future?

Worzel: Well, I can tell you what they don’t need: they don’t need to be force-fed facts to memorize and regurgitate on a test, only to have them forgotten quickly thereafter. Yet this is what our education system specializes in today, even though kids can do it faster and more effectively online. Yet, there are things they need to know so they can research and assemble knowledge systematically, and that’s what we need to point towards.

Yet, what parents often mean when they ask this question is “What path can I set my child on that will guarantee their employment, financial security, and welfare until they retire?” The answer to this question is: there ain’t no such animal. But your question is still worthwhile, and is not being asked very seriously by our education system, specifically by the various ministries and departments of education.

Today’s education system should teach two things, both difficult: it should teach mental skills, such as critical thinking, creativity, research, and the ability to apprehend new areas of knowledge quickly; and secondly, it needs to teach context or understanding, also known as wisdom. This is hard.

How would I go about it? I’ve discussed that at great length in various columns I’ve written over the past 15 years in “Teach” magazine. I was going to provide a link to a relevant column, but something has just fowled up my website server. If you come back a little later, hopefully I’ll be able to point you to such an article. Sorry about that.

In summary, though, what learners need is to have their interest piqued, and their talents, interests and skills identified, and then put on a path to pursue those interests AS A MEANS OF educating them in the broader fields of knowledge. If we can capture a learner’s interest, then we won’t have to force them to go to school, they’ll drag us behind them because they will be so eager to learn. As it is, we force them through 12-13 years of servitude and boredom, killing much of their native curiosity.

Worzel continues: OK, my website server is back up, so here are some links:

There are more, but this is a start.

Janosz: To The Ingenuity Series: Thank you for the opportunity to ask the question. To Mr. Worzel: Thank you for the thoughtful response!

May I repost the comments up to my blog at along with a link to this discussion?

Some additional thoughts…
Interesting that you point to creativity as one of the desirable personal qualities to be garnered by way of their formal education. I’ve reflected on this term a great deal over my career and now favor the use of the term ingenuity, hence the name of my blog. I find that creativity is inherent in ingenuity, but that ingenuity is what we really want to develop because it evokes the APPLICATION of one’s creativity. The way I see it, a person’s ingenuity, a personal quality, is key to any uncertainty of their future lives and careers.

Worzel: First, go ahead and repost the comments on your blog, and thanks for the interest.

Second, no argument from me on ingenuity as a critical issue. I believe all related techniques are desirable, and teachable as well. We’ve been raised to believe that only “artists” are creative, and only “inventors” are ingenious, yet I believe everyone has these qualities. They can be trained and practised, just like any other mental muscle.

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