Big Things Come in Small Packages

Do you like cooking shows? Of course you do.

Do you like competition cooking shows, where the various chefs rip each other apart like they are ripping apart a head of lettuce? Admit it, you do.

So do you like seeing competition cooking shows with kids? Probably. But hopefully not to see them rip each other apart.

Having seen cooking competitions with kids coming from other countries in the last few years (Junior MasterChef Australia comes to mind) I have recently seen one from the US: Kids Baking Championship.

I have to say, I think this is pretty cool. I feel like the reason the US is a little behind on this idea may be that, on our reality-competition shows, the most interesting part is often the bashing by the judges or by the other contestants, but this show really is about kids being competitive in their creativity.

And that’s the reason, I think, that the contestants are so young, ranging from 10-13 years old. After that, they are going to start getting told — by peers, parents, teachers, society in general — that play time is just about over and they need to start thinking about what they REALLY want to be when they grow up. We discourage kids from being creative as they get into their teens, but at this stage in their lives, it is still OK to explore your creative side.

So why do we make them stop?

Even if people are not going to make a career out of cooking or playing trombone or painting portraits (and of course, there is always the chance that they will), why do we keep telling kids to get their heads out of the clouds and come back down to earth, learning a “real” skill? In the US, we don’t tell high school athletes, “you are never going to play for the NFL, so quit worrying about games and go study math,” but we have no problem telling a kid who really enjoys art “you will never make a living at that.” My years in Asia have suggested that attitude may be even more common here, and that is really unfortunate, because even if they don’t make a living out of pasting macaroni to a piece of paper and covering it with glitter, the fact they are creative opens up so many career possibilities later. I have had too many university students over the years whose focus was on memorizing and repeating, and who could then do great things if you told them what to do, but who never had an original thought of their own.

As schools cut art classes and creative extracurriculars (but leave sports in place) whenever funding gets tight, and as parents push their kids into more “career-oriented” pursuits, you as a leader can step in and help fill the gaps, emphasizing the importance of imagination and creativity and critical thinking. Judge a science fair. Sponsor a contest in your field. Do some crowdsourcing in partnership with a high school art class. Offer internships. Participate in Career Days at local schools and show how excited you are about creative work. This isn’t something you should do just because it’s a nice thing to do; it’s also something you should do because you are helping motivate the next generation of creative thinkers who can come join your field.

Now if you will excuse me, there’s a new recipe for scones some kid is talking about and I need to copy it down.

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