The Province of Elegance. @GrantLichtman #EdJourney, Episode 11

From the concluding pages of Grant Lichtman’s The Falconer: What We Wish We Had Learned In School

Elegance is not the province of heroes. It is here for all of us who want to emulate those who we respect, to practice the skills required, and to work hard at it. We must use the tools we have learned, and learn to suffer failure but not defeat.

Importantly, elegance is not the sole province of those we respect or revere, of those who share our world view, political party, or side in battle. Elegance deserves our attention not because it is good, but because it is new, creative, and efficient … in other words, because it is better. And if we don’t keep up with what is better we quickly lose the game, whatever the game may be.

A few paragraphs later …

The skills of strategy are our tools in the search for elegance wherever our passion leads us. … We, too, can overcome difficult obstacles and find or create these unique opportunities that make our lives full, achieve our objectives, and, hopefully, fill the lives of those around us. The key is not wealth or armies, not background or advanced degrees, or even necessarily raw brainpower. The keys are willingness, preparation, openness to new ideas, and the diligent application of strategy.

And, still, a paragraph later…

…creational thinking, not critical thinking, should be our ultimate goal in education. Critical thinking is a skill that allows us to steer a valuable course through a known problem. It engages a problem-solving skill set but stops short of what is possible. If problem solving and critical thinking are the goals of education, the bar is too low. Creational thinking, the use of content while branching into the unknown, leads to the possibility of truly elegant solutions. That is where the bar needs to be, particularly in light of the challenges that lie ahead of us.

In our search for elegance, maybe we create something new, or understand something old in a new way. Maybe we fill in a gap of knowledge, fit a new piece into the puzzle of human experience that has been forming for over four million years. Maybe we fail but decide to try again. Hopefully the elegant solutions that tend toward good in the world surpass those that tend toward evil. If we succeed, as scientist, engineer, peacemaker, prophet, soldier, teacher, designer, artist, parent, or just someone putting one foot in front of the other each day in a complicated world, maybe we have become someone else’s hero.

It has been my pleasure to follow along with Grant as he has visited 64 schools across the U.S. on his #EdJourney. The windows into these schools have proven to be invaluable to my own hope, imagination, confidence, and creativity. There are many heroes in the schools that Grant visited, and I am most thankful that they opened up their schools and their practices so that we all could connect and learn with each other. What we create with these new connections and insights will make all the difference in the world. Such is our province of elegance.

What follows is the twelfth and final videocast interview with Grant as he concluded his twelve-week, 64-school, cross-country #EdJourney. We recorded the interview on Friday, December 14, 2012. On that day, of course, Sandy Hook Elementary School experienced a horrid and terrible tragedy. Our hearts, minds, thoughts, and prayers are will the people and families of Sandy Creek in Newtown, CT. Grant and I decided to move forward with the interview on that day for that is what we must all commit to doing – move forward and create the elegant solutions together with our neighbors.

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