By Cheri Rae
If you aren’t one of the 5 million people who have taken a look at the video known as Caine’s arcade, stop reading now and spend the most inspirational 10 minutes of your day—if not your week—watching it.
It’s the inspirational story of a bright little boy’s creative vision—one that turned a bunch of cardboard boxes into a wondrous amusement park. And it’s about a couple of wise adults with an appreciation for a child’s strengths of resourcefulness and tenacity—in the face of limited resources—and how, with a little help, he has stepped onto his pathway to success.
And it’s a reminder that not all learning comes from books or in school.
I wasn’t surprised to learn that the 9-year-old Caine Mulroy isn’t much of a reader, since his outside-the-box, different way of thinking goes far beyond the limits of the printed page.
It’s the kind of thinking that leads to striking innovations, great expectations and giant leaps forward. But it’s also the kind of thinking that all-too-often gets kids in trouble in school—where learning these days is expected to be confined, quantified and calculated into statistical norms and standard deviations. And there’s little time for the kind of daydreaming and creativity in the classroom that Caine engaged in to create his wonderful arcade.
For the past several years, I’ve immersed myself in the world of dyslexia and those who learn, think, process and experience the world differently, astonishingly, creatively.
So the only thing that does surprise me about the little boy from Boyle Heights is how lucky he is that a filmmaker with a heart, Nirvan Mullick, discovered him and told his story to the world, leading to fund-raising efforts, scholarship money and even taking his arcade on the road to San Francisco’s Exploratorium.
By raising Caine as an example, it’s a reminder that there are uncounted similarly creative kids who regularly get left behind when they’re evaluated solely by how well they perform traditional academic skills. These smart kids who engage, tinker, create, build and use their imaginations outside of the school day where they barely manage to hang on and rarely get to share their true gifts with the world. They may not be readers, spellers or great composition writers, but they can outthink and out-innovate the best of them.
It’s time we start recognizing, celebrating and understanding our vast treasure trove of young and brilliant thinkers who don’t fit the standard way of thinking—in class and outside of it.