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A Play-Doh Manifesto (September 16th is National Play Doh Day)

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In honor of National Play-Doh Day (and the upcoming presidential election), I propose a Play-Doh Manifesto. I believe this declaration might make a difference for my kids, your kids, and kids in need around the world.

I've been thinking of this manifesto after reading the mission statement at The Institute of Design at Stanford University, also known as the d.school. Scribbled on a paper napkin with a sharpie marker is the manifesto proposing to:

- prepare future innovators
- use design thinking
- foster radical collaboration
- tackle big problems to find new solutions.

These four elements of the d.school mission remind me of the hopes I have as a parent raising two daughters in a complex world. If only I could find the napkin on which I scrawled my mission statement.

What's cool about the d.school is they respect Play-Doh as a tool for problem solving. Parents know the power of Play-Doh to shorten the worst of tantrums, broaden young minds and lengthen focus in our otherwise frenetic culture. Ask any parent to show you their child's latest Play-Doh creation and you will see monuments to mind-boggling creativity. In the hands of the students at the d.school, Play-Doh might just be the revelatory tool for the latest insight into community development, a medical breakthrough, the coolest new iPhone app or a life-saving innovation for a nation in need.

I'm writing about the power of Play-Doh today, because I wonder if it might be a helpful tool in the hands of our policymakers reconvening this month and the unfolding presidential election.

Isn't our hope for the leaders of our nation to prepare future innovators, nurture new ways of thinking, foster radical collaboration and tackle the big problems of our nation and world? And yet we are stuck in polarized camps with big problems unsolved, let alone a national debt that will burden our children for years to come. These leaders need Play-Doh to deescalate their tantrums and get into the mindset of shaping a world that our preschoolers will thrive in both today and tomorrow.

And so, I would like to take that 'd' in d.school and turn it 180 degrees to propose the p.school. Certainly that 'p' can stand for any number of things: parenting, pregnancy, pee, poop, puke, pink purses, purple dinosaurs, Power Rangers and of course, Play-Doh. For now, this will be the 'p'roblem-solving school.

The 'p.school' would foster creative thinking on a different playground where parents, politicians and pre-schoolers along with a few lumps of Play-Doh would problem solve.

In honor of National Play-Doh Day, I would contend one of the first initiatives of the p.school be to supply a rainbow of colors across the desks in our nation's capital. While Play-Doh cannot patch the leaks in the Washington Monument, bolster the walls of the Mississippi River levee system, rebuild the bridges of the hurricane ravaged Gulf Coast or reduce the amount of money spent on a presidential election, all of us parents know Play-Doh has the capacity to produce the partnership and creativity that will nurture those solutions.

The manifesto for this new p.school, would be simply this: Use the power of Play Doh to prepare flexible minds to use the resources at hand to foster creative solutions and instead of tackling each other, tackle the big issues at play in the world today.

Living into this Play-Doh Manifesto might just squelch the divide in our society and instead let lawmakers squeal with the delight of an a-ha!, a new revelation that will make the world better for our children. Parents know the inquisitive power that pops from a yellow canister. We hope that the powers-that-be can find that same creative power to shape things anew by popping open that lid on the Play-Doh.

I've got paper napkins, sharpies, a manifesto and cans of Play-Doh. Any parents out there plan to join me in passing them out?