The idea of living a passionate life is near to my heart.
Too often, this is associated with finding a career or job: something that I believe sets up people for disappointment. As Dean Shareski says so well, “Passion and work aren’t necessarily the same things.”
I couldn’t agree more.
The real focus for me in terms of passion is that it encourages a self-defined, meaningful life. It helps lead to happiness and joy. It can give meaning to one’s life. It can foster community, connections, and relationships.
Now, I’m not saying the absence of passion(s) equates to a bad life. But my limited experience in life has shown me time and time again that the passionless life is wake walking more times than not.
The Role of Schools
Tony Wagner in his latest book breaks it down really well: play can lead to passion which can lead to purpose. Wagner describes purpose as “something far deeper, more sustainable, and trustworthy” and it evolves from passion. In his vast studies, passion was the key word with those he interviewed.
And Dr. Wagner’s work supports why I’ve long believed schools should foster passionate mindset while also helping students discover/develop their passion through play, experiences, and connections.
I’d argue, however, that Wagner is missing one piece key to the role of schools: Play <-> Interest <-> Passion <-> Purpose. Play and interest-based learning lead to engagement. With engagement, we open the door to the individual not a prescribed definition of a student. And when we open the door through engagement, interest-based learning, and play, we have a better chance at fostering a passionate disposition, encouraging the discovery of one’s passion, and even the beginnings of finding one’s purpose.
And this is what frustrates me so much about our current educational system. We’ve exchanged play and interests for content. We’ve exchanged connections and habits of mind for skills. We’ve exchanged experiences and dispositions for scope and sequence.
We can’t measure it as cleanly as the ACT. We can’t build a nice package for growth measurements.
And what we are really saying is that we are content with compliant students focused on learning how to succeed at school.