This past weekend, my husband and I drove to a conference center on the shores of Green Lake to watch our two younger children, ages 13 and 10, participate in the Wisconsin Future Problem Solving (FPS) State Bowl. For those of you unfamiliar with FPS (as I most certainly was before my oldest child got involved years ago as a fourth grader), the program’s mission is to stimulate the critical and creative thinking skills of young people by challenging them, either in teams or individually, to come up with innovative solutions to complex global problems.
Truth be told, the idea of my kids and their peers being “future problem solvers” has always made me giggle a bit, especially when it comes to international matters. How can a bunch of pre-teen and teenage kids like mine, who can’t seem to remember to unpack the dishwasher or match socks correctly, be expected to generate meaningful solutions to heady and challenging issues like pitfalls of the culture of celebrity, the difficulties of managing megacities or, in the case of this past weekend, how to help offset the Garbage Patch in the north Pacific.
If contemporary sociologists, urban planners and scientists haven’t been able to crack the code on alleviating these sorts of problems, I question if my kids will genuinely be able to provide much help.