By Sarah Vander Schaaff
“I don’t have a chance of winning. I don’t want to do it.”
Was this the attitude Google anticipated when it launched this year’s Doodle 4 Google competition?
On the surface, the competition is simple: children in grades k-12 are invited to submit a doodle version of the Google logo integrating this year’s theme of One Thing to Make the World a Better Place.
One national winner will see her or his artwork on the Google homepage this June and earn a $30,000 college scholarship along with a $50,000 Google for Education grant for their school.
It all sounds noble and in keeping with the spirit of helping our children embrace 21st century skills: think outside the box; let your imagination lead; be a problem solver.
My eight year-year-old came home with a few papers about the competition given to her by her art teacher and was ready to doodle. She doodled instead of doing her math. She doodled on the mirror with soap instead of brushing her teeth.
She is, in fact, genetically predisposed to doodling, inheriting the trait from her maternal grandfather, a man who is a master at leaving paper napkins marked by his doodles wherever he goes, like Zorro with a Uni-ball pen.
A day later, her doodle passion gave way to defeatism. It was a useless enterprise, she said. Her chance of wining was one in a million.
Clearly the kids at school had been talking, wisely or cynically, assessing the odds of success.
I wanted to emphasize the intrinsic value of project. Google had partnered with Discovery Education, after all, to create lesson plans to make the process, not just the prize, part of the experience. And, technically, winners would be selected at local state levels and accolades, cash, and trips to the Google headquarters awarded to more than just the single national winner.
But this moment of doubt wasn’t really about Doodle 4 Google. It was about the end of doing something for its intrinsic value, oblivious to the external construct by which it would be judged.
Competition does that. And until now, competition, as far as she knew, had been primarily limited to rivalries with her little sister.
Now she was aware of a nation filled with competitive doodlers.
First this; next college. How would we cope?
It’s going to be a long road of moments like this, I realized. We are moving into the big-kid, tween, teen and young adult pressures of striving to find success in hyper-competitive educational and workplace environments.
“Well,” I said, acknowledging her statement, “the truth is, the odds of winning are pretty slim.”
And the art teacher had not made the competition part of a greater lesson. If I wanted to dig deeper into those aspects, it would be on our own time, replacing other things such as, I don’t know, eating dinner and sleeping.
Should I encourage her to spend hours trying to doodle her make-the-world-a-better-place-invention on to the corporate logo of Google?
I’d really like to make the world a better place by not driving our eight-year-olds to the point of doom over such prescribed forms of creativity.
“In this case,” I said, thinking of the bigger doodle, I mean, picture, “It’s really not that important.”
I learned something.
And I suppose I have Google to thank for that.
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