Tag Archives: high school

Losing Out on Potential Teen Power — Our Curriculum is Costing Us

“It’s amazing that a kid can have an idea and end up serving other kids in the community,” said Nicole Peters, development associate of Door of Hope (Girl Scout’s project provides hope through hoops by Bill Plaschke).

The Jan. 22, 2016 Los Angeles Times article tells the story of Claire Dundee. She spent seven months earning her Girl Scout Gold Award by organizing a basketball court construction project at the Door of Hope apartment complex, which provides transitional living for women and children left homeless as a result of domestic violence.

“For kids going through trauma, to be able to do kid things, that’s such a big thing,” said Tim Peters, executive director of Door of Hope.

Why isn’t school more like this humanitarian teen’s project?

Claire gained estimating, project management, negotiating, fund raising, and event planning skills — sophisticated skills that can be transferred into the marketplace.

Not to mention confidence and the joy she gained from knowing that she was responsible for improving the lives of children whose young lives have already been scarred by poverty and violence.

Outdated Curriculum

Many teens nowadays are losing critical developmental years playing to their weak suit, academically advanced curriculum that emphasizes theory and memorization instead of problem solving and creativity. Figuring out how to pull off a project of the magnitude of Hoops for Hope involves a lot of creativity. Although we associate creativity with music, art, and theater, resourcefulness and problem solving demand creative thought processes.

Not everyone is wired to be an engineer, a medical doctor, or a professor. So why does our curriculum generally play to only two (linguistic and mathematical) of the eight intelligences? (According to Howard Gardner, there are eight intelligences: musical, spatial, linguistic, mathematical, kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalistic, and each individual has a blend of them.)

With the technology that exists today, teens could learn math, writing, software, interpersonal, and so many other skills while tackling community problems and the nuances of the marketplace. Foreign language skills could be cemented by engaging in joint projects with students in foreign countries.

The possibilities are endless. Instead of all but the most academic of teens emerging from high school in a sleep-deprived daze unsure of career options and with little self-knowledge, we could end up with most teens graduating high school engaged, community-oriented, and confident of their future.

 

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Education or alienation?

“For many children school is a place where confidence is eroded and one is made to feel incapable, where social relationships degenerate into a competition based on social acceptance and fear of exclusion,” writes Michael Reist in What Every Parent Should Know About School. Although the book focuses on what’s wrong with many school districts and not what’s right with many others, Reist does provide a window into the alienation many disengaged students experience.

“The fallout from such a system is clear: kids who are stressed, kids who lack confidence in themselves, kids who are depressed and addicted, kids who are in conflict with their parents, kids who think they are stupid, and kids who do not know themselves,” concludes Reist.

Multiple intelligences

There are multiple types of intelligence, yet courtesy of No Child Left Behind (a.k.a. No Teacher Left Standing and No Pharmacist Left Unemployed) many school districts invest nearly all of their resources into making every student more than proficient in only two of them, linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligence. This tends to discourage those students with other talents such as bodily/kinesthetic or visual/spatial – students who tend to excel at jobs that are more hands on.

Lucrative skilled trade jobs

Dirty Jobs Mike Rowe started a foundation to fund skilled trade jobs, or as his website puts it, “Three million good jobs that no one seems to want.” Quoting further from profoundlydisconnected.com, “The mikeroweWORKS Foundation started the Profoundly Disconnected® campaign to challenge the absurd belief that a four-year degree is the only path to success.”

Developing strengths not weaknesses

The Gallup organization has spent decades focusing on strengths-based development. Their research concludes that it is far more productive to develop one’s strengths than to strengthen one’s weaknesses. In their literature, they cite a 1950s University of Nebraska study that evaluated teaching rapid reading. Surprisingly, the study revealed that those who were rapid readers to begin with made, by far, the greatest improvement. (maximizeyourstrengthsblogspot.com)

One of Reist’s compelling arguments is that keeping high school students so incredibly busy learning a little bit of everything disengages quite a few of them and keeps most from indulging and developing their passions, their natural strengths. When you are not going against your grain, it doesn’t seem like work. There are districts that give students the option of specializing in high school. Long Beach Unified School District has several of them such as their Architecture, Construction, and Engineering A.C.E. program, “This unique program provides guest speakers, fieldtrips, internships and partnerships with industry professionals and businesses.  Whether you choose technical/trade school, college, university, or go directly into the workforce, ACE offers skill preparation and hands-on training for you!”

Learning by doing

In addition to high school student’s long school days of sitting, excessive homework has them sitting further. Prolonged sitting is a health risk even for those who exercise regularly. (Read more about this in 2015 LA Times Even for the active, a long sit shortens life and erodes health.) Reist makes a good case for high school programs that involve less sitting, learning by doing, and incorporate internships and apprenticeships.

“School should be a place where children thrive and flourish and become even more confident and capable than they were before,” concludes Reist.

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