Growing "older" augments your life with additional responsibility, seemingly at an exponential rate beginning around age 12. In our culture this added responsibility decreases imagination, creativity, and lateral intelligence. I say "older" with quotes because it's not a linear process, it's not actually about the sequence of your life in terms of the years you've been conscious. Growing older is extremely non-linear. "Older" is usually synonymous with "maturing" or "growing up". But again, these are too linear. There are eight year olds who can be more "grown up" than I can in certain situations and demonstrate such with their behavior. Likewise, two 25-year-olds can be vastly different in terms of how mature they are and how capable they can be in making complex life-decisions and day-to-day living.

Regardless, this non-linear process becomes most apparent and then spirals and branches apart at the onset of adolescence. If you're between the ages of zero and ten, generally you're not really responsible for your actions. You are "too young" to know better. I think this is categorically wrong, but it's a generally accepted notion. Small children are treated kind of like pets: unintelligent, unknowing, messy lifeforms that require constant attention and care. Most importantly, children aren't the source of original ideas, and don't really understand enough to be capable of complex criticism. This has been largely debunked by scientists and behavioral psychologists: kids are actually pretty damn smart and are capable of figuring out a lot, and are extremely complex emotional/intuitive beings from birth.

This is a two-fold problem: on the one hand, as I've just laid out, the perception of being very young is wrong. On the other hand, we are still continually told that children are not responsible, and that before becoming adults each of us would have to "put aside childish things" as if there's something inherently wrong or detrimental about them. Apparently the ages of zero to ten might as well have been spent in an incubator where you just learn basic math and how to read. Creativity and imagination themselves are fought against indirectly: we are told to stop daydreaming and to pay attention. Stop asking so many questions. Stop talking all the time. Stop running around.

We, as children, begin to believe (and it is a mere belief, one that can be shattered) that being a child is wrong. It is somehow against being human to be a child. Yet children are put on the lifeboats first, alongside the women who can make more. We value children above all else and yet childishness is wrong. From that perspective, children are mere objects, as if "child" is directly synonymous with "not yet useful, but give it time". During adolescence this is solidified further: learn more complex math, learn how to read more stuff, learn about the history of the adults you'll be stuck with before they all die. Oh, and figure out how you're going to make money for the rest of your life so you can be "happy".

There is no course offered on how to be a creative person. There is no class on how to stretch your imagination. There is no lesson plan on how to be a father, how to feel happy or sad, or how to remain a child. There is no class time in the school day when you can just dance... unless you go to a special school specifically for dance, or a weird hippie school that just wants people to work on co-op farms for the betterment of llamas. There is no general public education for being a person; there is only a specific education on how to be an efficient worker. Where's a class on "here are some neat ideas, and the final exam is to come up with your own". Alternatively, a class in which "you make up the quizzes, made up of questions you don't have the answers for and can't figure out". There is no curriculum for the inquiries of living everyday life.

Every college student graduates, looks around the next day, and experiences the grand existential crisis of "oh shit -- what now?" The answer that has erased your childhood and been penciled over it by adulthood is clear: "get a job". Is this really the conclusion you should have reached after your first twenty-something years on the planet? Why aren't you prepared for that existential crisis? Why does it have to be a crisis at all? Responsibility, when added to us, can refine and focus our perspective, but it does not have to totalize it and break apart all other mental abilities. The real crisis is how to maintain the ability to create new solutions for our problems instead of repeating the same mistakes our parents' made on levels that they may not have known they were reaching. The crushing feeling of life's near-infinite possibility could be liberating to the mind if we did not inflict such social and cultural pressure on ourselves, generated by the adults who came before us.

Imagine if a young child is told in their first few years in school "we don't know why we're all alive, you'll all have to figure it out for yourselves, and it's no big deal". Or something like "you'll meet a lot of people in your life, old and young, who have no idea what they're doing or why they're here, but they'll have ideas and you should listen to them". And maybe the people who have some ideas that people consider and generally agree with as good can be elevated to the roles of teachers. Maybe these teachers should garner some respect since they're shaping the future of our world, but still be held responsible for the world they're shaping.

I'm not saying there's no place for math and grammar, there definitely is and always will be, but the equation here is imbalanced in favor of these analytical processes. The conclusion that cannot be reached is that they eclipse or make invalid the imagination and creativity and blissful ignorance of youth. The analytical progress of humanity is relevant, but only in balance with the flight of our imaginative capability. Ignorance itself is so often regarded as bad in any form, but ignorance is merely space that either is not occupied or is occupied by ideas that may be more true or original or interesting than what we consider the truth. A child looks at the world with fresh eyes: what an amazing resource! A child can immediately look at something and may not see it as ugly or pretty, may not see it as functional or intuitive, may see it simply as it is, which we are incapable of as adults. A child is born with no knowledge of religion or race or gender or discrimination -- adults are the ones who manage to create those things. Can't we see that adults are the ones who have it wrong? A child doesn't care if they're wrong because they're always trying to figure things out, they're always asking questions of the status quo.

One of the very important abilities that we strip out of children is lateral or interdisciplinary thinking, because the key ingredient of that ability is being creative and unafraid to be wrong. Why isn't there a class that is a "meta" class: a curriculum that simply asks "take what you've learned in one class and try to apply or combine it with something you learned in another class". The greatest innovations come about when someone takes an idea that originated in one discipline they're good at and applies it to a completely different discipline. An economist applies their ideas of supply/demand to a biology problem. A poet takes their idea of form and meter and applies it to industrial design. A mill worker takes their hobby of creating websites to change the way parts are ordered in the mill they work in. Lateral thinking is simply the ability to say "I don't need to know more about something to better at it, I need to know something different". Investment bankers join a garage band to learn how to care about someone else and not just about the rate of return on every balance sheet.

These greater challenges are what spurn humanity forward in ways we could've never seen before. This is the real progress. The key to these processes are inherent within us at birth, and are being routinely stripped away wholesale by how education currently works in the "civilized" world. We continue to make better automatons, but never do we seem to encourage great thinkers or creative problem-solvers. These kinds of people don't have to be anomalies, they can become the standard. Try to imagine what kind of wonderful disruption may happen in the world if the creative, innocent drive of a child is applied to solve world problems. Many of the sources of such problems may be dissolved away quite easily, as they are mere abstractions conjured up by the worst parts of our grown-up fears and insecurities which we have holed ourselves inside because we've lost the ability to imagine our way out of them.