I completely agree with you! But here is the problem as I see it:
People have diverse ways seeing and thinking about the world around them. The learning materials we build tend to only support the dominant ways of seeing and thinking in that field. This happens because those materials tend to be built by experts in the field, who all see and think about the world in similar ways.
Using your friend’s son as an example, we end up believing that there are good drawers and bad drawers because all of the evidence around us says that bad drawers never become good drawers. The reason that bad drawers never become good drawers isn’t that it isn’t possible — it’s because we don’t build learning materials that enable bad drawers to become good drawers. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.
As the evidence accumulates that people are good at some things and bad at others, it becomes hard to argue that people can grow and become good at anything they choose. As individuals and a culture, we develop a “fixed mindset”, which says we are born with certain talents and capabilities, and it’s impossible to grow beyond those limits.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of educators who train teachers also share in this fixed mindset, so—instead of demonstrating how to use cognitive adaptations to help students learn and grow—they inadvertently perpetuate and reinforce the same mindset in new teachers.
I’m honestly not sure where we go from here. Educators try to discourage me every day. They tell me that experimenting with new learning materials, like Drawing Area, is unnecessary because the curriculum and instruction we have now is good enough. They believe we can transform education simply by motivating students and empowering them to choose the learning materials that works for them. They don’t realize that—for many students—those learning materials don’t exist and motivation is not enough.