Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Has It Gone Full Circle?

In 1520, Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan sailed under Spain’s colors through what is now called the Straits of Magellan in South America to reach the Pacific Ocean.

Magellan had proposed a westward route to the Spice Islands in the Indies. He finally struck Guam in March 1521. He was killed in April while trying to conquer the Philippines, but a few of his sailors escaped and reached the Spice Islands. After shipwreck and imprisonment, one ship made it to Spain in September 1521, successfully circumnavigating the globe.

On July 16, 2009, seventeen-year-old Zac Sunderland successfully circumnavigated the globe again--alone: An Intrepid Home Schooler.

On August 27, 2009, Mike Perham of England, an even younger seventeen, did the same in only nine months: Brit, 17, Completes Solo Sail Around the World.

On August 29, thirteen-year-old Laura Dekker of the Netherlands faced a child protection court wanting to prevent her from beginning her own solo circumnavigation: Girl's Solo Sailing Plans Stir 'Super Child' Debate. (The court ruled that Miss Dekker will have to wait.)

Meanwhile, two other sixteen-year-olds in the U.S. and Australia plan to start their own voyages soon.

After 488 years, during which exploration has moved out to new frontiers like space and in to explorations of DNA and nuclear physics, the "simple" act of sailing around the globe has suddenly re-emerged as a challenge that young people are eager to take.

Without making a judgment call on the safety and wisdom of Miss Dekker's now-postponed trip, I wonder if the experts debating it are missing a very simple point, one that educators in the U.S. would do well to note: children, students, naturally seek out challenges. They want to explore, to discover, to do hard things.

If nothing else, this circumnavigation trend tells me that we are letting a lot of energy and enthusiasm go to waste, not to mention failing to respect students' potential, when we treat teenagers as if they are capable of nothing better than passing a standardized test.


Ivonne said...

This post reminded me of a book called "The Case Against Adolescence" by Robert Epstein in which the author argues that adolescence is artificially created when we treat young people as children.

1 Smart Mama said...

I'd like to hear more...do you recommend the book?