Wanted: Tolerance for ambiguity
Sometimes the most valuable lessons are those not taught directly, but learned as the side effect of great teaching and impactful learning: experience.
Specifically, as Jeff Selingo argues in his recent article "Wanted in College Graduates: Tolerance for Ambiguity," the ability to operate effectively--and even excel--in an environment lacking rigid direction. He writes:
The ability to tolerate ambiguity on the job requires people to think contextually, what I call the “connective tissue” that occupies the space in-between ideas. It is the “killer app” of today’s workplaces. We make these connections by following our curiosity and exploring and learning from peers.
This isn't something we can teach directly and, more importantly, it's not something that can be learned later in life (easily, or at least not without substantial focus and perhaps great pain). Providing young children with ample opportunities to think and solve problems in a supportive environment, doing things they do naturally (e.g. play alone and with peers, games of imagination and experimentation), is a great start. Later in childhood and adolescence, we need to create loosely-defined problems and inquiry learning opportunities in school -- quite the opposite of the rote knowledge-driven economy of high-stakes testing.