Thoughts on Permission
I am constantly caught off-guard by my students who ask "Can I do that project this way?" or "What if I want to try this?" It's usually in reference to how they meet the requirements of an assignment. Of course, I explain the guidelines; but how a student inevitably fulfills those guidelines is really up to them. So what if they want to do it their own way?
Studies have shown it's the "C-students" who best succeed in life. They are the ones willing to take chances, to push new ideas, to fail. We need people who are willing to go in different directions and try new things if we're to improve the messes we've made of this world!
Now, certainly, not doing an assignment at all should lead to a zero grade; and doing an assignment differently from the guidelines may indeed lead to a lower grade; but in the end, if the student will learn more or have a better experience from doing an assignment differently, as long as they are putting in the effort, I'm okay with that. (Financial assistance obligations aside.)
It makes me realize how much we all worry about consequences that aren't really of very much consequence. We all seem so desperate for approval from our parents, peers, bosses, it can compltely stimy the expression of our own voices, our creativity, but especially the evolution of good ideas. I'm not saying that irresponsible actions shouldn't have negative consequences; I'm saying, we overrate the permission we need from others to stay true to ourselves or to seek innovative solutions.
Even as a faculty member who is not yet tenured, I feel the pressure of needing permission to be the brash, vocal 50+ person I now am. But I also now feel a responsibility to be that brash, vocal person with tons of experience and education to possibly put some good ideas into the world, even if they aren't terribly popular in my immediate circles of influence. Don't I owe my ideas to a future that needs to be better than the world we have now? Don't we all owe our ideas to that future?
Status quo is what has led to many of the world's problems; and yet, the status quos we tend to treat as immovable, typically do not have very much history behind them. The passage of a generation or two seems to be enough to make folks believe "it's always been done this way." But that is simply not true!
Cities have been designed around cars only for about a hundred years. Industry has only been pumping pollution into our environment for about 200 years. In the scope of human history, neither is very much time. So, why can't we pivot? Why can't we go in different directions?
Let's stop asking for permission to maintain the status quo, to abide by behaviors that haven't been around very long, or to compromise our future by thinking we need permission to change it!