I recently read the wonderful book Subtract: The Untapped Science of Less by Leidy Klotz. The book deftly covers why we should consider doing less, completely stop doing certain activities, and add to our lives by subtracting.
Detailed in the book is the story of Ryan McFarland and the Strider Bike. McFarland wanted his two year old son to fall in love with biking as he had. He was trying to figure out how to lessen the weight of the bike for his young son.
He tried several strategies to lighten the crankset of the bike (the part you pedal) to make it easier for his son to ride. Finally, the epiphany hit him; his son could stride and propel the bike on his own (with proper balance) if he just removed everything related to the crankset.
Thus the Strider Bike was born. A complete subtraction which not only improved but reinvented the child’s bicycle.
As I read this part of the book, I thought about how much addition we regularly commit to in education. We add new initiatives every year. New mandates are added to old mandates, with room in the schedule for neither. Nothing is ever taken away. Just a constant barrage of one more thing. We add and add and add some more.
I am a committed believer in the idea of less is more. We need to start taking things off the table, instead of cramming more on. We need to subtract. We need to get rid of our To Do lists and start focusing on our Stop Doing lists. Nostalgia activities are fun, but practical activities that provide meaning and value are better.
It’s time that we start doing less in order to accomplish more. Let’s take a look at our schools and reinvent our classrooms by taking away.