college/uncollege

What I’ve been reading: The ROI of meaningful work

Published by Lori Pickert on May 2, 2014 at 08:47 AM

Last week we talked about passion, hope, and Good Work. Let’s contrast that with the following.

It’s all about the money, honey:

Everybody graduates from college with a major. So I wanted to know not just which college grads get richest but which college majors are the tickets to richness?

…[I]t's important to not conflate “highest ROI” [return on investment] with “best” or “smartest.” At Columbia University, an arts major has a 20-year expected return of $477,000, but an economics major at the school earns an extra $900,000 and a computer science major gets $1.6 million. Perhaps another study can prove that Columbia’s economics majors are twice as smart as its art majors. But the more reasonable explanation is that economics majors actually want to maximize their earnings after graduation. So they tailor their education to set them up for maximizing post-graduate income. — Which College — And Which Major — Will Make You Richest?

Before you choose your major, kid, read articles like these (here’s another one and another one). Then major in computer science — that’s where the money is! (Because a college education is a job placement program, not a foundation for a lifetime of learning, duh — get with the program!)

One, if every single person enrolls in computer science, then who’s going to be getting the available jobs when there are a glut of software engineers? The people who don’t really like coding and are just in it for the money? Or the people who really love it?

Two, even if you can get a job, if you don’t really like coding (and as a result you probably aren’t great at it), is your paycheck going to make up for the fact that you don’t enjoy your work?

The thinly veiled suggestion that you should pressure Junior to major in CS violates at least two of the three tests for Good Work that we discussed last week: Does it fit your values? Possibly, if your values are about making the most money possible. Is it excellent work — are you highly competent at what you do? Not if it’s not what you really enjoy. Does it bring joy? I’m going to say no — you don’t really enjoy, so there goes your joy, and I’m guessing you aren’t going to produce work that makes anyone else feel joy, either.

When I read these articles I get the sense that the underlying message is that work sucks so if you have to work, you may as well make as much money as possible. This is a very common mindset among adults.

The young people who follow this advice will probably end up spending their big salary trying to make themselves feel better about a life that makes them miserable, a life they chose because they wanted a big salary.

Alan Watts, save us!

[I]t’s absolutely stupid to spend your time doing things you don’t like in order to go on spending time doing things you don’t like and to teach your children to follow in the same track. — How to Do What You Love

Some people love computer science and they get to do what they enjoy and make big bucks — good for them. (The fact that we pay 20-something software engineers more than experienced teachers is a whole other subject.) But a good test for Junior would be: Would you do this job even if it paid much less? If the answer is no, maybe you should think hard about that.

Going to college seems to be the most talked-about subject among people with kids around the same age as ours. And by now we’ve heard plenty of stories feeding fears that your child will be left behind, will miss out on the best education and, therefore, will see his life ruined before it even begins.

…[M]y son and I found ourselves sitting in the well-appointed office of a man asking what my son wanted to do with his life. “I have no idea,” my son sighed, in the same tone I used when I was that age to answer annoying aunts. How could anyone know? Albert Einstein had no idea he would one day become Albert Einstein.

“Well, what are your interests?” the counselor asked.

His interests range from learning more about the stars to studying card tricks, from a fascination with the idea of infinity to playing Xbox. Afterward, the consultant said: “Your son has to learn to focus more. He is just drifting through life.” — April madness: The problem with American college admissions

Drifting through life! The irony is that the teen years could be so rich for exploring interests and talents (and doing real, meaningful work) but we stuff them with so many hours of school, homework, and extracurricular activities (all the better for your college application!) that kids don’t know who they are or what they want to do. Then we complain that kids aren’t applying themselves. Not only are you supposed to be busy 24/7, stressed and exhausted, but you’re also supposed to figure out which STEM career you want.

By the time they reach an age to think about what they’d like to do, most kids have been thoroughly misled about the idea of loving one's work. School has trained them to regard work as an unpleasant duty.

If you take a boring job to give your family a high standard of living, as so many people do, you risk infecting your kids with the idea that work is boring. Maybe it would be better for kids in this one case if parents were not so unselfish. A parent who set an example of loving their work might help their kids more than an expensive house.

The test of whether people love what they do is whether they’d do it even if they weren’t paid for it — even if they had to work at another job to make a living. How many corporate lawyers would do their current work if they had to do it for free, in their spare time, and take day jobs as waiters to support themselves?…

With such powerful forces leading us astray, it’s not surprising we find it so hard to discover what we like to work on.

Most people are doomed in childhood by accepting the axiom that work = pain. Those who escape this are nearly all lured onto the rocks by prestige or money. How many even discover something they love to work on? A few hundred thousand, perhaps, out of billions.

It’s hard to find work you love; it must be, if so few do. …

[T]he way to do great work is to find something you like so much that you don’t have to force yourself to do it — finding work you love does usually require discipline. …

Finding work you love is very difficult. Most people fail. Even if you succeed, it’s rare to be free to work on what you want till your thirties or forties. But if you have the destination in sight you’ll be more likely to arrive at it.

If you know you can love work, you’re in the home stretch, and if you know what work you love, you’re practically there. — Paul Graham, How to Do What You Love

I’ve shared this ancient editorial before (read it all here):

I see many teens of means with few interests and little idea how to pursue those mild passions they do have. Ironically, many are successful academically. Rarely, however, is their success driven by a quest for knowledge. Rather, they tie academic achievement to eventual financial success. — “The Dangers of Privilege and College Admission,” by college consultant William Caskey

The purpose of education — apparently it’s all about income. Shouldn’t it be to help people connect with their purpose?

Last week we talked about the fourth-grade slump and how by third grade (we’re accelerating that slump) kids are starting to disengage and lose their self-motivation.

Recently I went to hear a concert played by the orchestra at our local high school. It was beautifully done, Beethoven’s “Eroica” Symphony, at a near-professional level. But it was strangely joyless.

It wasn’t until I attended my daughter’s middle school band concert, with all its toots and missed notes — amid raucous laughter from the musicians — that I knew what was missing.

The American education system in general, and the college admissions process in particular, seem intent on creating cautious, careerist adults-in-training. — April madness: The problem with American college admissions

Cautious and careerist. Oh yay.

When I compare last week’s post with this week’s, it takes me about a nanosecond to choose Good Work as what I want for my sons over “which college and which major makes you the richest.” I want more for them than a big paycheck; I want them to have a Good Life. We already know what that entails. We already know what matters, we just don’t choose it.

In a study led by Derek Isaacowitz, we found that the capacity to love and be loved was the single strength most clearly associated with subjective well-being at age eighty. — Martin Seligman, Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being

In an interview in the March 2008 newsletter to the Grant Study subjects, Vaillant was asked, “What have you learned from the Grant Study men?” Vaillant’s response: “That the only thing that really matters in life are your relationships to other people.” — Is There a Formula for a Good Life?

What’s a really terrible idea when planning your future?

You know those nightmares where you are shouting a warning but no sound comes out? Well, that’s the intensity with which the experts wanted to tell younger people that spending years in a job you dislike is a recipe for regret and a tragic mistake. There was no issue about which the experts were more adamant and forceful. Over and over they prefaced their comments with, “If there’s one thing I want your readers to know it’s…” From the vantage point of looking back over long experience, wasting around two thousand hours of irretrievable lifetime each year is pure idiocy. — 30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans

What makes for a rich life, in every sense of the word? Relationships. When do you start that particular education? At birth.

[A] loving childhood is one of the best predictors of mid and late-life riches: “We found that contentment in the late seventies was not even suggestively associated with parental social class or even the man’s own income. What it was significantly associated with was warmth of childhood environment…” — What makes for a good life?

When you think about the advice you will give your children about their future — should you advise them to invest in the biggest salary they can get, or should you advise them to invest in their interests and signature strengths?

From The Top Five Regrets of the Dying:

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

If you end up at 18 with absolutely no clue about what you care about, who you are, or what you do well, perhaps it’s not surprising that you get in line for the job with the highest income.

If, as an adult, you think work is a necessary evil — if you’ve never found your own meaningful work — then perhaps it’s not surprising if you advise your children to get in that line.

Many people are caught in this cycle, choosing money over meaning, then advising their children to do the same. And what a self-perpetuating cycle it is:

[O]ur studies suggest that children from the most affluent families find it more difficult to be in flow — compared with less well-to-do teenagers, they tend to be more bored, less involved, less enthusiastic, less excited.

Our research suggests, for instance, that more affluent teenagers experience flow less often because, although they dispose of more material possessions, they spend less time with their parents, and they do fewer interesting things with them. — Prerequisites for Happiness

What’s the return on investment for deep interests, meaningful work, and making a real contribution to your community? It might not be the biggest paycheck. But I do think it’s the path to a more satisfying life.

One of the most important things we do for our children is to present them with a version of adult life that is appealing and worth striving for.” — Madeline Levine, Teach Your Children Well: Why Values and Coping Skills Matter More than Grades, Trophies, or “Fat Envelopes”

 

Reading and loving Madeline Levine’s book quoted above. It certainly resonates with PBH:

“[C]hildren must have the time and energy to become truly engaged in learning, explore and develop their interests, beef up their coping skills, and craft a sense of self that feels real, enthusiastic, and capable.”

While we all hope our children will do well in school, we hope with even greater fervor that they will do well in life. Our job is to help them to know and appreciate themselves deeply; to approach the world with zest; to find work that is exciting and satisfying, friends and spouses who are loving and loyal; and to hold a deep belief that they have something meaningful to contribute to society. This is what it means to teach our children well.”

"No child is better off in front of a computer or practicing times tables. Childhood is precious. It is not preparation for high school or college, but a brief and irreplaceable period of time when children are entitled to the privilege of being children."

“[M]y professional career [is] encouraging parents to be present with the child right in front of them rather than being overly focused on the future."

“We delude ourselves when we think that our parenting is the singular engine behind our child’s development. Your children come hardwired with interests, abilities, capacities and temperament. They will grow, more or less into the person they are meant to be whether they have one tutor or two, go to math camp or computer camp, work out twice a week or daily. I'm not saying that the opportunities we provide our children our meaningless. On the contrary, I’m asking you to consider the types of opportunities you are providing, what is motivating you, and how well these opportunities fit with your child’s particular nature." — Teach Your Children Well

Keeping these thoughts in mind…

The new trendy phrase in education is “deeper learning”:

Simply defined, “deeper learning” is the “process of learning for transfer,” meaning it allows a student to take what’s learned in one situation and apply it to another, explained James Pellegrino, one of the authors of the [Deeper Learning Report]. “You can use knowledge in ways that make it useful in new situations. … You have procedural knowledge of how, why, and when to apply it to answer questions and solve problems.” — How Do We Define and Measure ‘Deeper Learning’?

So, hmm … let me see if I’ve got this right. Deeper learning is … learning that you can actually use. Ah.

Why do we even need terms like “authentic learning” and “deeper learning”? Because, as you know, all learning experiences are not equal. All learning is not equally effective or lasting or useful or relevant. We call everything that happens in school “learning,” but how much of that do you remember? Use? How much of it do you carry into the future and how much of it do you discard like a flyer pressed into your hand on the street by a guy dressed like a giant hot dog?

Howard Gardner has been writing about authentic understanding and authentic learning for some time:

[W]e’ve got to do a lot fewer things in school. The greatest enemy of understanding is coverage. As long as you are determined to cover everything, you actually ensure that most kids are not going to understand. You’ve got to take enough time to get kids deeply involved in something so they can think about it in lots of different ways and apply it — not just at school but at home and on the street and so on.

Now, this is the most revolutionary idea in American education — because most people can’t abide the notion that we might leave out one decade of American history or one formula in math or one biological system. But that's crazy, because we now know that kids don’t understand those things anyway. They forget them as soon as the test is over — because it hasn’t been built into their brain, engraved in it. So since we know unambiguously that the way we do it now isn’t working, we have to try something else. — On Teaching for Understanding

This conversation, depressingly, occurred in 1993. And I quote: “We know unambiguously that the way we do it now isn’t working” — “we have to try something else.” And yet … we don’t.

Would you say that most students don’t really understand most of what they’ve been taught?

I’m afraid they don’t. All the evidence I can find suggests that’s the case. Most schools have fallen into a pattern of giving kids exercises and drills that result in their getting answers on tests that look like understanding. It’s what I call the “correct answer compromise”: students read a text, they take a test, and everybody agrees that if they say a certain thing it’ll be counted as understanding.

But the findings of cognitive research over the past 20–30 years are really quite compelling: students do not understand, in the most basic sense of that term. That is, they lack the capacity to take knowledge learned in one setting and apply it appropriately in a different setting. Study after study has found that, by and large, even the best students in the best schools can’t do that. — On Teaching for Understanding

Ooh, “the compromise” — so reminiscent of “the bargain”:

“Mostly what I see in my visits to middle and upper grades classrooms are examples of what of Michael Sedlack, et al. (1986), long-ago characterized as ‘the bargain’ — ‘you give me order and attendance, I’ll give you passing grades and [minimal] homework.’ - What I’ve Been Reading 3.14.14

On both counts, that’s quite a compromise — kids don’t have to learn anything as long as they go through the motions. Thanks, education!

Of course, there are many, many educators who hate this and want to change it. But haven’t there always been? And are things changing?

And where are the parents? Do they care about the bargain that bargains their child out of actually learning? The big compromise that means their kids get good grades and a diploma but they didn’t really learn anything? Madeline Levine again:

“When apples were sprayed with a chemical at my local supermarket, middle-aged moms turned out, picket signs and all, to protest the possible risk to their children’s health. Yet I’ve seen no similar demonstrations about an educational system that has far more research documenting its toxicity.” — The Problems with Parenting the Future Elite

It seems that as long as the system gets our kids where we want them to go, as a society we’re willing to ignore the underlying learning part of education. It’s not really about that, is it? It’s about jobs. And income. And status.

And are our kids even getting a fair shake in that compromise?

Why, Levine asks, do we continue to tolerate an education system that not only puts our children under intense pressure, but one that doesn’t even accomplish what it purports to be doing? After all, most children don’t make it to the most selective tier of colleges, study after study shows that excessive homework is useless at best and counterproductive at worst, and, finally, even business leaders are claiming that even the best of the American education system leaves graduates bereft of the skills one actually needs to make it in the 21st century. — The Problems with Parenting the Future Elite

With 45% of college graduates living back at home with their parents, can we seriously say that the education system is meeting its first priority, which seems to be job placement?

When I was a high school student my first real job was bagging groceries at Winn-Dixie. This wasn’t an unusual experience. I remember as a kid that many adults would tell me with no apparent embarrassment that their first job had been at McDonald’s. Holding a job like this was just part of the cycle of life

Two events changed this in the 1980s. The first was the recession, which shattered the illusion of American industrial dominance forever. The whole idea of a good job for life on the assembly line was now seen to be dangerously naive. This is the era when “you absolutely must go to college to succeed in life” meme took hold.…

The second was the closing of the bootstrap frontier. By this I mean the severe curtailing of the ability of people to work their way up from the bottom in business. …

With formerly entry level jobs increasingly ones with … a limited career path and low pay and benefits, and the only way to career success seen as being through college, a new concept of work started to emerge. In 1986 it was given a name, the “McJob.”

The phrase “McJob” was designed to label a real and important effect, and presciently so as we see today. Namely the bifurcation of the economy. Nevertheless, it went beyond a critique of economic conditions to something more fundamental; it said these were jobs not worth doing and unworthy of human dignity to hold. It eroded the idea of work itself as honorable.

Today I’m amazed how many teenagers and college students don’t work at all, especially not at old school grocery bagging or burger flipping jobs. It seems that you’re better off getting in more extra-curricular activities or doing volunteer work to burnish your resume than actually working, which says something profound.The Decline of Work

I find this fascinating to think about. The jobs I had as I worked my way through college profoundly affected who I became and what I chose to do with my life — far more than the classes I took. At the time, I was unhappy about how working drained my energy and took time away from, say, my essay on the Transcendentalists. But in the end, it was the work that taught me about myself, what I could do, what I wanted, and how to make a living. I graduated and immediately started my own business. I went back to reading for pleasure and learning for pleasure, and I continued to learn from actually doing real work.

Jobs, including low-level jobs, can be incredibly educational — about how to work with people, how to stand up for yourself, how to balance your own goals with the goals of your employer, and on and on and on.

If kids don’t have time to do real work while they are young, they are pushing all of these knowledge- and skill-building experiences off until after their education — until they are in their “real” jobs! (Pardon me, careers.) It seems we don’t have time for kids to do a lot of things during their education years:

- actually learn,

- explore their personal interests and talents,

- experience real work,

and much more, but that’s depressing enough. We have created a system where kids have to choose their future blindfolded. When they finally get the opportunity to really learn, they’re already heavily invested in a path they chose when they didn’t have all the facts they needed to make an informed decision.

You could say, oh, but you’re homeschooling so you can still do these things, and that is true! But here’s the thing: A lot of homeschooling parents not only follow the exact same high-pressure path that school kids take, but they double-down on it and use homeschooling as a way to increase their children’s academics and extracurricular activities. So homeschooling doesn’t really have anything to do with it. It comes down to parents and schools and communities: What do we want for kids? And are you willing to buck the trend to make it happen? Are you willing to break away from what everyone else is doing?

One thing we might do is simply throw out the weird, arbitrary calendar that’s imposed by the school system and our culture. Kids have to be doing X at Y age, period, and it starts in preschool and doesn’t let up until you’re married with a morgage and a child. Lets up, mind you — it never stops. How’s your retirement plan going?

That imposed calendar creates pressure within our kids and ourselves to get them moving along that conveyor belt at a brisk clip, checking off boxes along the way. When you think of the number of 20-somethings living with their parents after graduation, why not go ahead and take the extra time to really learn during those learning years?

[O]ur children are increasingly deprived of many of the protective factors that have traditionally accompanied childhood — limited performance pressure, unstructured play, encouragement to explore, and time to reflect.

“[W]e must embrace a healthier and radically different way of thinking about success. We need to harness our fears about our children’s futures and understand that the extraordinary focus on metrics — high grades, trophies, and selective school accpetances from preschools to graduate schools — is a partial and frequently deceptive definition. At its best, it encourages academic success for a small group of students but gives short shrift to the known factors that are necessary for success in life.”

“We know far too much about promoting healthy child development to continue to tolerate the myth that success is a straight and narrow path, with childhood sacrificed in the process. The truth is that most successful people have followed winding paths, have had false starts, and have enjoyed multiple careers.” — Teach Your Children Well

So here’s the question we must ponder: Are we willing to give our children the gift of the winding path?

 

“I woke up thinking a very pleasant thought. There is lots left in the world to read.” — Nicholson Baker

What I’ve been reading

Published by Lori Pickert on March 7, 2014 at 07:43 AM

“The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset.” — Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, by Carol Dweck

 

I am a fan of Shawn Achor’s book The Happiness Advantage. (My favorite quote from that book: “Common sense is not common action.”) This week I’ve been reading his new book:

“As it turns out, IQ and technical skills combined predict only 20 to 25 percent of job success. That means that over 75 percent of your career outcome has nothing to do with your intelligence and training

If IQ is a bad predictor, maybe SAT scores, a more modern testing tool, would be better? Not the case. As a matter of fact, they are much worse. SAT scores predict only 8 to 15 percent of college freshmen’s GPA, which means that for around 88.5 percent of college students, SAT scores are no better at predicting academic success than a pair of dice. …

High school grades are twice as predictive of college success as SAT scores. [But a]fter a decade of research, [Thomas J. Stanley, PhD, author of The Millionaire Mind] found no correlation between grades and professional success: a coin flip would be as predictive of greatness as grades. This explains the oft-cited paradox that so many C students in business school end up running companies and so many A students end up working for them.” — Shawn Achor, Before Happiness: The 5 Hidden Keys to Achieving Success, Spreading Happiness, and Sustaining Positive Change

One of the people who devised the Common Core is remaking the SAT and aligning it more with said Common Core:

report released last month by William C. Hiss, a former dean of admissions at Bates College, and Valerie W. Franks, a former Bates assistant dean of admissions, supports Wake Forest’s experience. They reviewed 33 colleges and universities that did not require SAT or A.C.T. scores and found no significant difference in college G.P.A. or graduation rates between those who had submitted tests and those who had not. Specifically, they saw that students with good high-school grades did well in college, even if they had weak SAT scores. But students with weaker high-school grades — even with strong SATs — did less well in college. — The Story Behind the SAT Overhaul

Will rehauling the SAT make it more predictive of job success? Why do I suspect it won’t?

“The predictive validity is going to come out the same,” she said of the redesigned test. — ibid.

Well, there you go. Roll of the dice it is.

 

 

If you’re creeped out that the Common Core guy is now redesigning the SAT, too, here’s what Lucy Calkins had to say about that:

With a redesigned SAT, Calkins thinks that too much of the nation’s education curriculum and assessment may rest in one person’s hands. “The issue is: Are we in a place to let Dave Coleman control the entire K-to-12 curriculum?”  — ibid.

Coincidentally, I had already read a slew of articles this week about the SAT…

Did you know employers might ask for your SAT scores years after you graduate from college? I didn’t!

Stephen Robert Morse was a candidate for a communications job when the recruiter told him to be ready to discuss his SAT score in a coming interview.

Mr. Morse, 28 years old, said he was “shocked” that a potential boss would be interested in the results of a test he took more than a decade earlier.

“When you’re hiring people and they don’t have a lot of work experience, you have to start with some set of data points.” — Job Hunting? Dig Up Those Old SAT Scores

Wowza. I liked what Lisa Nielsen said about this: “It is not that schools are failing to teach students to become skilled workers, but that schools are not providing them with enough experience doing things in the world.” (She said that here, apparently summing up something that Anthony Cody said, although I didn’t really get that from what Cody was saying. Just taking this statement out of context, however, I agree with it completely. Why don’t kids do more real things? As the last sentence of that quote says, without proof of actual experience doing things in the real world, we are reduced to numbers that may or may not accurately represent what we can do.)

If the idea of your SAT scores dogging you into your adult working life doesn’t disturb you, this bit from the same article might:

Cvent, which employs more than 1,400 people, hasn’t tested whether its best employees are also its top SAT scorers. “Knowing it’s a standardized test is really enough for us,” Mr. Eden said. — ibid.

Oh ho ho, hello. I wonder if that statement expresses the feeling of the people in charge of standardized testing for kids as well. Does it give accurate information that tells us something necessary and real? Oh well, knowing it’s a standardized test is really enough, isn’t it?

It’s long been said that the SAT is (grossly) unfairly weighted toward privileged students:

“There is a substantial body of evidence that the system is failing to reward students with high test scores who come from low-income families.” — The Reproduction of Privilege

“Generally speaking, the wealthier a student’s family is, the higher the SAT score.” — SAT Scores and Family Income

“SAT and ACT scores are weak predictors of grades and … they come with inherent social disparities.” — SAT Wars: Exposing New Evidence of Flaws in Standardized Tests

Standardized tests allow colleges to practice social discrimination in the name of academic selectivity, when, in reality, high school grades are the best predictor of future collegiate success.” — SAT Wars: Exposing New Evidence of Flaws in Standardized Tests

Wake Forest dumped the SAT requirement and lo and behold:

Wake Forest says its incoming classes are a lot more diverse — more low-income students, more racial minorities, more first-generation students — than they were when the university used to plug SAT scores into its admissions formula. — Wake Forest and the SAT

But hey, knowing that it’s a standardized test is really enough for us, right?

(I’m sure the SAT is changing so it will be more fair — or is it because the ACT test is gaining a lot of market share? Potato, po-tah-to.)

Is the SAT an accurate representation of how people will perform in the workplace?

I can’t think of a more useless indicator of the ability to be successful in one’s job. That’s because the SAT does not measure the soft skills that have proved to be so important in the workplace. I’m referring to such things as the ability to work with others and to endure in the face of failure. Further, what possible relevance do scores posted by high school seniors have a decade or more later?

Nevertheless, many companies persist in the fiction that the SAT is a reliable factor in predicting success.  Even when two candidates bring almost identical backgrounds, I doubt that the SAT provides any useful information in making a hiring decision. I tried to make a distinction between an aptitude test and an achievement test (UnSATisfactory, Education Week, Jun. 14, 2006).  But companies confuse the two when they say that the SAT measures the knowledge and skills in a given subject. — The Immortal SAT, EdWeek

Speaking of being disturbed, I was shaking my head over this article about a mom who took the SAT herself in order to coerce her son into caring more about college than Halo:

Her oldest child, Ethan, a B student with modest athletic abilities (yet several minor concussions), was a sophomore in high school. Stier, in her words, was “beginning to feel frantic.” Ethan would soon be applying to college, but what were his chances of getting into a good one?

“A possibility presented itself,” she writes. “Ethan could study for the SAT, earn high scores, and get a scholarship at a decent school.” There was just one hitch: Ethan wasn’t interested in studying for the SAT. He preferred playing Halo. So Stier thought she would model the behavior she was hoping to inspire: “I thought maybe I could motivate Ethan to care about the SAT, just a little, if I climbed into the trenches myself.” — When Grownups Take the SAT

I write a lot about modeling behavior; for the record, this is not what I mean. And let’s ignore that bit about several minor concussions (?!) — that would be an entire other topic.

There is a difference between modeling behavior and being coercive and manipulative. In my opinion, you get a lot further by living the life you hope your children will live — letting them see you work hard for something you care about, for example — than by trying to shame them into doing what you want.

Somewhere between the fourth SAT and the fifth, Stier’s project very nearly collapses, along with her family life. It’s summer, when no SATs are offered, and Stier decides this would be a good time for her and Ethan and Ethan’s younger sister, Daisy, to work together on their math skills. She brings the kids to a local tutoring center so they can all take a diagnostic exam. Apparently, the two teen-agers have not been consulted about this plan, because they react with fury. Stier, in turn, is enraged by their behavior. Harsh words are exchanged. That night, the kids decamp to their father’s house. Some days later, they reappear, but bad feelings linger.

“Ironically,” Stier observes, “it was now time for Ethan to begin studying for the SAT in earnest, and we were barely speaking.”

This is what I said on Facebook:

What happens when you wait until your children are teens and leaving home to get them involved in their own education? It doesn’t go well.

I don’t even understand how this happens. How are teens uninterested in their own future? How are they totally uninvolved in their own learning? How does a parent ambush teen children with unwanted summer remedial math classes? There’s a basic lack of communication and respect here that I simply don’t get. I guess this is helicopter parenting. I see it as micromanaging. If your children are teens, they are nearly adults. They should be immersing themselves in their interests, getting real experience doing things they want to do, and they should above all be very motivated to do whatever it takes to secure the future they want. They should be experimenting now, when the stakes are low, with taking responsibility for meeting their own goals. If kids are this checked out, how will they fare once there are no adults to tell them what to do and how to do it?

I tore this editorial out of the Chicago Tribune at least a decade ago, and apparently it still holds true:

As they near college, we drive exhausted teens toward milestones of success ruled by grades, standardized test scores, and the ultimate mark of achievement these days: a brand-name school. Spent and busy parents expect me, their college consultant, to nag, drag, and, if necessary, carry their reluctant, exhausted, and often passionless kids toward the finish line and a “top-tier” college.

When I ask what would happen if their kids were left alone to complete this process without parental fuel driving them, they are often confused by my question.

I see many teens of means with few interests and little idea how to pursue those mild passions they do have. Ironically, many are successful academically. Rarely, however, is their success driven by a quest for knowledge. Rather, they tie academic achievement to eventual financial success. — “The Dangers of Privilege and College Admission,” by college consultant William Caskey

I’m going to answer my own question: Why are teens so uninterested in their own future? Perhaps because they’re so entirely uninterested in their present.

Finally, the writer of the article (not the mother in question) sums up her own feelings about the SAT:

Whatever is at the center of the SAT — call it aptitude or assessment or assiduousness or ambition — the exam at this point represents an accident. It was conceived for one purpose, adapted for another, and somewhere along the line it acquired a hold on American life that nobody ever intended.

Is it just me, or do we still suspect the changes to the SAT aren’t going to make it any more relevant to real-world success?

Here’s a bonus thought. IQ is not immutable.

Wasn’t the IQ test meant to summarize children’s unchangeable intelligence? In fact, no. [Alfred Binet, the inventor of the IQ test], a Frenchman working in Paris in the early twentieth century, designed this test to identify children who were not profiting from the Paris public schools, so that new educational programs could be designed to get them back on track. Without denying individual differences in children’s intellects, he believed that education and practice could bring about fundamental changes in intelligence. — Carol Dweck, Mindset

and

[S]cientists are learning that people have more capacity for lifelong learning and brain development than they ever thought. Of course, each person has a unique genetic endowment. People may start with different temperaments and different aptitudes, but it is clear that experience, training, and personal effort take them the rest of the way. Robert Sternberg, the present-day guru of intelligence, writes that the major factor in whether people achieve expertise “is not some fixed prior ability, but purposeful engagement.” Or, as his forerunner Binet recognized, it’s not always the people who start out the smartest who end up the smartest. — Carol Dweck, Mindset

Permanently tagging students with a score based on a standardized test that may have virtually no power to predict their success in their chosen work — and then forcing them to drag that number through college and out the other side into the working world — assumes that their potential can be summed up by a test taken when they were teenagers. It is a fixed, not a growth, mindset — and I imagine it does very little to convey to students that their actual success depends on their own effort.

What I’ve been reading

Published by Lori Pickert on February 28, 2014 at 01:25 PM

“Learning is more than learning to conform.” — Paradoxes of Learning, Peter Jarvis

 

I’ve been seeing lots of articles lately about how employers no longer consider elite degrees as important or desirable as they once were.

“The least important attribute they look for is ‘expertise.’

Said Bock: ‘If you take somebody who has high cognitive ability, is innately curious, willing to learn and has emergent leadership skills, and you hire them as an H.R. person or finance person, and they have no content knowledge, and you compare them with someone who’s been doing just one thing and is a world expert, the expert will go: “I’ve seen this 100 times before; here’s what you do.”’ Most of the time the nonexpert will come up with the same answer, added Bock, ‘because most of the time it’s not that hard.’ Sure, once in a while they will mess it up, he said, but once in a while they’ll also come up with an answer that is totally new. And there is huge value in that.”

[W]hen you look at people who don’t go to school and make their way in the world, those are exceptional human beings. And we should do everything we can to find those people.

“Beware. Your degree is not a proxy for your ability to do any job. The world only cares about — and pays off on — what you can do with what you know (and it doesn’t care how you learned it).

And in an age when innovation is increasingly a group endeavor, it also cares about a lot of soft skills — leadership, humility, collaboration, adaptability and loving to learn and re-learn. This will be true no matter where you go to work.” — How to Get a Job at Google

and

“[B]usiness leaders are now echoing Google by saying that college pedigree and major don’t matter as much as people think in hiring decisions.

A new Gallup survey finds that in hiring decisions, only 9 percent of business leaders say that the school on a candidate’s diploma is ‘very important,’ compared to 84 percent assessing knowledge in the field and 79 percent looking at applied skills.”

“Google’s head of people operations Laszlo Bock told the New York Times that top graduates can lack ‘intellectual humility,’ and that schools frequently don’t deliver on what they promise.”

“96 percent of college provosts say students are prepared, compared to 14 percent of the public, and 11 percent of business leaders.” 

“It could be that higher education is really not preparing people at all and we have a broken system, or just a fundamental misunderstanding. Either way it’s a tragedy…” — Survey: Businesses Don’t Care if their Employees went to Yale

So almost 100% of colleges think they’re doing a great job of preparing students for work and only 11% of business leaders agree. There’s a bit of a disconnect there.

So what about for future entrepreneurs? Does a top college degree matter there?

Recently a venture capitalist told students at the Harvard School of Business:

“It's really unfair to you guys, but I think you’re discriminated against now … I would bet a large amount of money that the overwhelming majority of us would not look favorably on a company started by one of you.” — Investor gives closing keynote at Harvard Business School

Ouch.

I’ve read several articles in the last few months saying that the biggest thing holding college graduates back from starting their own businesses is… wait for it… college loan debt.

The rising mountain of student debt, recently closing in on $1.2 trillion, is forcing some entrepreneurs to abandon startup dreams…

Some academic experts say leftover loans are the biggest impediment to upstart entrepreneurship by those who recently received college or graduate degrees. “I mentor students all the time," says Vivek Wadhwa, a fellow at Stanford University Law School. "The single largest inhibitor to entrepreneurship is the student loans.” — Student Loan-Load Kills Start-Up Dreams

If student debt is a roadblock to economic opportunity, that really undermines a philosophy of how America has moved forward and prospered. — Millenials’ ball and chain: student loan debt

So your college degree creates a roadblock to your economic opportunity? Ouch again.

From the Harvard Business Review themselves:

A bachelor’s degree used to provide enough basic training to last a career. Yet today, the skills college graduates acquire during college have an expected shelf life of only five years… — Mind the (Skills) Gap

The Google tells me that average student loan debt is about $30,000 (and 70% of students graduate with debt) but that’s only the debt you walk away with — that’s not the cost of a college degree (remembering to factor in the opportunity cost of spending four or five years or more not working). Still, seems like you should get more than five years’ worth of knowledge for that kind of coin.

Paul Graham wrote about this way back in 2007:

It may not matter all that much where you go to college.

For me, as for a lot of middle class kids, getting into a good college was more or less the meaning of life when I was growing up. What was I? A student. To do that well meant to get good grades. Why did one have to get good grades? To get into a good college. And why did one want to do that? There seemed to be several reasons: you’d learn more, get better jobs, make more money. But it didn’t matter exactly what the benefits would be. College was a bottleneck through which all your future prospects passed; everything would be better if you went to a better college.

A few weeks ago I realized that somewhere along the line I had stopped believing that.

Either it won't help your kid get into Harvard, or if it does, getting into Harvard won't mean much anymore. And then I thought: how much does it mean even now?

It turns out I have a lot of data about that.

One of the most surprising things we’ve learned is how little it matters where people went to college.

I thought I’d already been cured of caring about that. There’s nothing like going to grad school at Harvard to cure you of any illusions you might have about the average Harvard undergrad. And yet Y Combinator showed us we were still overestimating people who’d been to elite colleges. We’d interview people from MIT or Harvard or Stanford and sometimes find ourselves thinking: they must be smarter than they seem. It took us a few iterations to learn to trust our senses.

Don’t you learn things at the best schools that you wouldn't learn at lesser places?

Apparently not. Obviously you can’t prove this in the case of a single individual, but you can tell from aggregate evidence: you can’t, without asking them, distinguish people who went to one school from those who went to another three times as far down the US News list. Try it and see.

How can this be? Because how much you learn in college depends a lot more on you than the college. A determined party animal can get through the best school without learning anything. And someone with a real thirst for knowledge will be able to find a few smart people to learn from at a school that isn’t prestigious at all.

[T]he great advantage of not caring where people went to college is not just that you can stop judging them (and yourself) by superficial measures, but that you can focus instead on what really matters. What matters is what you make of yourself. I think that’s what we should tell kids. Their job isn’t to get good grades so they can get into a good college, but to learn and do. And not just because that’s more rewarding than worldly success. That will increasingly be the route to worldly success. — Paul Graham

Our kids’ jobs aren’t to get good grades, but to learn and to do. That sounds right to me.

If this gives you the sads, I’m sorry — but I think it’s exciting. Things are changing. How we learn and how we work — it keeps on changing. As long as we’re up for it, and as long as our kids are, I think we’re all going to be fine.

If you do a job where someone tells you exactly what to do, they will find someone cheaper than you to do it. And yet our schools are churning out kids who are stuck looking for jobs where the boss tells them exactly what to do.

As we get ready for the 93rd year of universal public education, here’s the question every parent and taxpayer needs to wrestle with: Are we going to applaud, push or even permit our schools (including most of the private ones) to continue the safe but ultimately doomed strategy of churning out predictable, testable and mediocre factory-workers?

The post-industrial revolution is here. Do you care enough to teach your kids to take advantage of it? — Seth Godin, Back to (the wrong) School

In times of change learners inherit the earth; while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” — Eric Hoffer

Friday link round-up

Published by Lori Pickert on September 28, 2013 at 08:21 AM

This week’s Facebook links (and some bonus finds) are a continuation of last week’s focus on college, learning to learn vs. learning to earn, and that elusive thing called happiness — or maybe we’ll settle for contentment.

I’m going to start with a great quote from Charles D. Hayes:

Millions of Americans have been so jaded by traditional education…they fail to comprehend that learning and quality of life are interdependent.

Traditional education has duped us into believing, or at least behaving as if we believed, that learning to earn a living is hard and that learning to live well is easy. But the evidence…suggests the reverse: we are good at earning a living, but not good at living a living. — Charles D. Hayes

Child psychologists in the UK have now extended adolescence to age 25:

“The idea that suddenly at 18 you’re an adult just doesn’t quite ring true,” Laverne Antrobus, a child psychologist at London’s Tavistock Clinic, told the BBC. “My experience of young people is that they still need quite a considerable amount of support and help beyond that age.” — Medical Daily

This is interesting, as I’ve just recently finished reading Meg Jay’s book The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter — And How to Make the Most of Them Now. The idea of pushing adolescence to the mid-twenties sounds like what Jay describes as giving kids excuses to put off making serious decisions about their lives, their relationships, and their work. Jay, a clinical psychologist who specializes in working with twenty-somethings, has a lot to say on this subject:

[S]ome underemployment is not a means to an end. Sometimes it is just a way to pretend we’re not working.

The longer it takes to get our footing in work, the more likely we are to become, as one journalist put it, “different and damaged.” Research on underemployed twentysomethings tells us that those who are underemployed for as little as nine months tend to be more depressed and less motivated than their peers — than even their unemployed peers. … Twentysomething underemployment is associated with heavy drinking and depression in middle age even after becoming regulrly employed.

Twentysomethings who think they have until later to leave unemployment or underemployment miss out on moving ahead while they are still traveling light. No matter how smoothly this goes, late bloomers will likely never close the gap between themselves and those who got started earlier. … Midlife is when we may realize that our twentysomething choices cannot be undone.

It is almost a relief to imagine that these years aren’t real, that twentysomething jobs and relationships don’t count. But a career spent studying adult development tells me this is far from true. And years of listening closely to clients and students tells me that, deep down, twentysomethings want to be taken seriously, and they want their lives to be taken seriously. They want to know what they do matters — and it does.

Back it all the way up to preschool and what do we find? Kids who are already afraid to fail:

“‘I asked the children to draw pictures of houses but they wanted me to draw the houses for them." Why? "They didn't want to get them wrong.’

Or: ‘We were talking about what things float and one of the objects was a sieve. I asked if a sieve could float and a child said “no.” And then he looked at me and said, “it could.” Why. He didn’t want to make a mistake.”

Or: ‘The children were drawing and one child asked, “Is this going to be in the grade book?’”

These comments are sadly typical. I was in Baton Rouge, Louisiana last week and a grandmother told of taking her grandson to kindergarten. He was beside himself with excitement to start school. A few weeks later that excitement had waned. She asked him what he was learning in kindergarten. He told her that he was learning to take tests.” — Kids These Days

What are we teaching kids in school if in early childhood they’re already trying to figure out the right answer vs. learning how to think? Already, they’re worrying about how to be good students vs. how to be good learners:

There is a difference between being a good learner and a good student, and in high school, my peers and I learned how to be good students.”

“…I became increasingly aware of the role that my current grades would play in my near future. Doing all of my homework no longer felt realistic. My friends and I realized we didn’t have to do everything assigned to us in order to succeed in high school.”

I hope college is where I can become a good learner.” — My Insane Homework Load Taught Me How to Game the System

We already know what type of education helps kids succeed *and* be happy:

“Dweck discovered two groups of students according to what motivated them.

First group, I’ll call the praise-seekers: People who are motivated to learn mostly to get high grades, pats on the back, and praise — and then profit post-graduation.

Second group, I’ll call the meaning-makers and mastery-seekers: People who are motivated to learn mostly by a desire to make meaning, to advance their own knowledge and skill set, and to use knowledge and skills toward a greater goal beyond their own advancement. 

In a longitudinal follow-up, guess which group, ten years later, was more content with work and life?

Yep, group two.” — A Job as Creative Quest

So most kids are afraid to fail and taught to seek praise and good grades — and they’re left unable to think for themselves, take good risks, and be resilient in the face of failure while pursuing important work.

Meg Jay again — on how we get sucked into making choices to please other people (parents, teachers, … and Facebook “friends”):

“Each person has an inherent urge to grow toward his or her potential, much in the way an acorn becomes a tree. But because we all aren’t acorns and won’t all be oaks, there is bound to be confusion about what exactly growing toward our potential means. …

Maybe we feel the cultural press to be an engineer before we find out what exactly that entails. Or our parents tell us more about what we should be like than what we are like. Or Facebook suggests that our … lives ought to look a lot better than they do. Scrambling after ideals, we become alienated from what is true about ourselves and the world.

Shoulds can masquerade as high standards or lofty goals, but they are not the same. Goals direct us from the inside, but shoulds are paralyzing judgments from the outside. Goals feel like authentic dreams while shoulds feel like oppressive obligations. Shoulds set up a false dichotomy between either meeting an ideal or being a failure, between perfection or settling. The tyranny of the should even pits us against our own best interests.

“Part of realizing our potential is recognizing how our particular gifts and limitations fit with the world around us.” — Meg Jay, The Defining Decade

Alexis Ohanian, young co-founder of reddit, says doing real, meaningful work matters:

Most schoolwork felt awfully irrelevant when compared to work that was actually affecting real people and giving me leadership opportunities (albeit digital ones), nurturing the community management skills that would come in handy later.

Learning how to learn is going to be the defining skill of this internet-enabled century.” — Alexis Ohanian

“Learning how to learn” is an oft-heard, even trite phrase. But are our kids really learning how to learn? Those preschool and Kindergarten children who are learning to game the system — and the high school students gaming it several years later — did they learn how to learn?

When will they, if that crucial lesson was skipped?

Some people believe a solution can be found in the maker movement:

“Based on 16 years of hearing pitches about the next great thing in education, what jumps out is that demand from young people — not the education industry's desire to supply something — is driving the maker movement. …

When schools do teach science, too often they are ‘telling students about science’ — and drilling for memorization — instead of engaging them. …

One way to activate student learning, as professor Sugata Mitra has shown through his famous Hole-in-the-Wall experiments, is to give kids the right resources and some motivating content and then get out of the way.” — Teach Kids to Make Things

I have a few bones to pick with the maker movement as adults have organized it for kids — there will be an upcoming post about that. Nutshell: Kids still don’t have enough control — and therefore they aren’t getting the full learning benefit. Until they set their own goals, determine their own deadlines, and measure their own progress, the maker movement isn’t giving kids what they could get on their own, building their learning from scratch. It’s Little League vs. corner-lot ball — the kids are along for the ride, but the adults are still calling too many of the shots.

And is the education system ever going to just hand over resources and content and then get out of the way? Not if they remain focused on test results.

Put these articles and results together and it’s clear that we’re not just choosing a less-beneficial education for kids, we’re putting them on a path that is going to affect their ability to be independent, self-directed learners who can find and do meaningful work as adults:

Thriving workers are 46% more satisfied than their peers.

 

They are 125% less likely to burn out than their non-thriving peers.

 

What’s characteristic of thrivers?

 

They have passion mixed with mastery. They love what they do, but they actively pursue more knowledge and skills.

 

A sub-title on the a Harvard Business Review cover sums it up: How Passion & Purpose Drive Profits. It does not read, ‘How Profits Drive Passion & Purpose.’” — A Job as Creative Quest

I’ll end by referring back to a quote from last week’s round-up:

What makes people successful,’ [Prof. Wadhwa] said, ‘are their motivation, drive, and ability to learn from mistakes and how hard they work.

 

…[Y]oung people are often steered away from courses they would like to take in school by well-meaning parents, friends or teachers who tell them they will never get a job doing that. Real life often tells a different story. — Finding Your Element

Kids need to be doing real work that matters now — so they’re prepared to make a life as well as a living.

Friday link round-up

Published by Lori Pickert on September 20, 2013 at 12:37 PM

It’s been awhile but I’m going to get back into doing a Friday link round-up — these are mostly comprised of thinks [Freudian slip — keeping it] I’ve shared on Facebook (along with added commentary) plus bonus things I’ve run across in reading and research.

Lately I’ve shared several excerpts around a loose topic of where happiness fits in with education and work.

We start with Alan Watts:

[I]t’s absolutely stupid to spend your time doing things you don’t like in order to go on spending time doing things you don’t like and to teach your children to follow in the same track.

See, what we’re doing is, we’re bringing up children, educating them, to live the same sort of lives that we’re living in order that they may justify themselves and find satisfaction in life by bringing up their children to bring up their children to do the same things…

And so therefore it’s so important to consider this question — what do I desire?” — How to do what you love

Does it matter what we desire? Or should skills trump passion?

Is it irresponsible to tell our children to pursue their big (possibly unrealistic) dreams, even if chances for making a successful living seem slim?

…It still seems to be the smartest, most glorious way to do anything: You do it. People who want to be writers say, what should I do? And you say, write! [Laughs] And they’ll say, then what? And you say, well, finish things! And they say, well, then what? Well, write something else. That’s how you do it. If you do it over and over, sooner or later you’re going to be writing stuff that’s publishable. And if you keep doing it, you’ll probably get fairly good. You have, you know, a million lousy words inside you, and you’ve got to get them out. I think there’s something very real and very true in that. How do you do it? You do it. Look at other people. Learn everything you can from everywhere. The most important thing is to do it.” — Neil Gaiman

Should we recommend they go to college and get a degree so they can get a good job?

“[I]f we are to have a really objective and productive debate about education policy, it’s important to base it on reality not wishful thinking. And the reality is that when measured in terms of absolute growth (not percentage change) in job openings between 2010 and 2020, none of the top fastest growing occupations even require a bachelor’s degree, and six of them don't even require a high school degree.

The focus on everyone getting a college degree clearly is wrong. … Whether or not to go to college is largely a choice based on how lucky one feels that they can beat the odds of being able to find a job that requires a college degree.” — What Emerging Knowledge Economy?

Are we advising our kids to acquire crushing debt for jobs that won’t be available to pay back the loans?

“[I]t turns out my job is to tell you not to trust us when we claim that there’s something sacred and irreplaceable about what we academics do. What we do is run institutions whose only rationale — whose only excuse for existing — is to make people smarter.

Sometimes we try to make ourselves smarter. We call that research. Sometimes we try to make our peers smarter. We call that publishing. Sometimes we try to make our students smarter. We call that teaching. And that’s it. That’s all there is. These are important jobs for sure, and they are hard jobs at times, but they’re not magic. And neither are we.

Mostly, we’re doing the best we can. … But our way of doing the best we can is to keep doing what we’ve always done, modifying it a bit with stuff we make up as we go along. Just like most people inside most institutions. Some years that works out fine, but we haven’t had so many of those years recently.

For all our good will, college in the U.S. has gotten worse for nearly everyone who relies on us. For some students — millions of them — the institutions in which they enroll are more reliable producers of debt than education. This has happened on our watch.” — Your Massively Open Offline College Is Broken

Kind of a whole other topic, but isn’t it interesting that we have kids in public school for 13 years and when they graduate with good grades they still aren’t able to understand the terms of a loan document? Or, for that matter, make good choices about how much money to invest in high education based on the availability of the jobs that interest them.

Should we be questioning whether the point of education is just to get a high-paying job?

[T]here’s something deeply disturbing about regarding children mostly as future employees and reducing education to an attempt to increase the profitability of corporations — or, worse, the probability that “our” corporations will defeat “theirs.”  Some of the least inspiring approaches to schooling, and the least meaningful ways of assessing its success, follow logically from thinking of education not in terms of its intrinsic worth, or its contribution to a truly democratic society, but in the context of the “21st-century global economy.” — Alfie Kohn, Five Bad Education Assumptions the Media Keeps Recycling

In response to Kohn, Annie Murphy Paul wrote:

Schools, like all of society’s institutions, serve a multitude of purposes (at least, they do when they’re working well — but that’s another issue). They open up worlds of literature and history and science. They cultivate the habits of clear thinking and balanced judgment so important to the functioning of a democracy. And yes, they prepare students for their lives after graduation, much of which will be spent in the workplace. — Is the Point of Schooling to Make More Money?

Well, my quibble here would be whether schools really serve a multitude of purposes. Evidently they do “when they’re working well” — I guess I haven’t been lucky enough to attend one of those schools. I would even quibble about whether they prepare students for lives after graduation, but let’s not go there.

We seem to be in a transitional period between paying a huge amount of money for job-acquisition credentials (and thinking going into debt for a degree is the cost of doing business in America) and possibly a more freelance- and entrepreneurial-based future economy. Whose kids will be the last ones to pay big bucks for a four-year degree that no longer means anything?

This writer tries to argue that education still matters even if you put credentials aside:

“If this trend continues, the future of higher education — at least in the U.S. — is clear. It will be training in various disciplines that lead to a professional credential and a secure job. … The world somehow expects that by age eighteen, people will know enough about their talents and interests to walk confidently into the right silo and come out the other end to occupy a place in the professional class.

…In my view, higher education should be equipping students to answer these four questions:

What is worth knowing?
What is worth doing?
What makes for a good human life?
What are my responsibilities to other people?

College is not the only place in which answers to these questions can develop, but it is an important place. And siloed, specialized training in a discipline — any discipline — will answer none of them.” — What Higher Education Should Be For

Those are great questions. But does anyone really think paying a private university $200,000 for the privilege of exploring those four questions for four years is a good financial decision? Couldn’t you explore those deep questions a lot more cheaply outside a university?

So should you advise your children to put aside their interests and pursue whatever the media is predicting to be the best careers in the next decade?

“Professor Wadhwa concluded that there is no link between what you study in college and how successful or otherwise you are later in your life.

‘What makes people successful,’ he said, ‘are their motivation, drive, and ability to learn from mistakes and how hard they work.’

…[Y]oung people are often steered away from courses they would like to take in school by well-meaning parents, friends or teachers who tell them they will never get a job doing that. Real life often tells a different story. …

The saddest thing to me,’ says Dr. Brooks, “is seeing someone take the job because it pays well and then spend all that money on toys to cheer themselves up for being so miserable in their jobs. The people who are doing what they love hardly feel they’re working at all, just living.’” — Sir Ken Robinson, “Finding Your Element”

So back to happiness vs. employability — how do we weigh that balance? What does it mean to live a good life, and how important is salary in that equation?

“A good job requires a field of action where you can put your best capacities to work and see an effect in the world. Academic credentials do not guarantee this.”

“[I]n schools, we create artificial learning environments for our children that they know to be contrived and undeserving of their full attention and engagement. Without the opportunity to learn through the hands, the world remains abstract and distant, and the passions for learning will not be engaged.”

There is a pervasive anxiety among parents that there is only one track to success for their children. It runs through a series of gates controlled by prestigious institutions. Further, there is wide use of drugs to medicate boys, especially, against their natural tendency toward action, the better to ‘keep things on track.’ I taught briefly in a public high school and would have loved to have set up a Ritalin fogger in my classroom. It is a rare person, male or female, who is naturally inclined to sit still for 17 years in school, and then indefinitely at work.”

The good life comes in a variety of forms. This variety has become difficult to see; our field of aspiration has narrowed into certain channels. But the current perplexity in the economy seems to be softening our gaze. Our peripheral vision is perhaps recovering, allowing us to consider the full range of lives worth choosing. For anyone who feels ill suited by disposition to spend his days sitting in an office, the question of what a good job looks like is now wide open.” — The Case for Working with Your Hands

Can you only be happy and fulfilled with a high-paying job? Research says no:

“[E]mployees have one of three ‘work orientations,’ or mindsets about our work. We view our work as a Job, a Career, or a Calling.

People with a ‘job’ see work as a chore and their paycheck as the reward. …

[P]eople who view their work as a career work not only out of necessity, but also to advance and succeed. …

[For people with a calling,] their work is fulfilling not because of external rewards but because they feel it contributes to the greater good, draws on their personal strengths, and gives them meaning and purpose. Unsurprisingly, people with a calling orientation not only find their work more rewarding, but work harder and longer because of it. And as a result, these are the people whoa re generally more likely to get ahead.” — The Happiness Advantage

“Wrzesniewski’s most interesting finding is not just that people see their work in one of these three ways, but that it fundamentally doesn’t matter what type of work one has. She found that there are doctors who see their work only as a job, and janitors who see their work as a calling. In fact, in one study of 24 administrative assistants, each orientation was represented in nearly equal thirds, even though their objective situations (job descriptions, salary, and level of education) were nearly identical.” — The Happiness Advantage

So Sir Ken Robinson quoted Prof. Wadhwa as saying

‘What makes people successful,’ he said, ‘are their motivation, drive, and ability to learn from mistakes and how hard they work.’

Are these skills you learned at school? If not, how can we help our kids acquire these skills which are essential for success in life — and probably happiness as well?

So-called noncognitive skills — attributes like self-restraint, persistence and self-awareness — might actually be better predictors of a person’s life trajectory than standard academic measures.

A 2011 study using data collected on 17,000 British infants followed over 50 years found that a child’s level of mental well-being correlated strongly with future success.

Similar studies have found that kids who develop these skills are not only more likely to do well at work but also to have longer marriages and to suffer less from depression and anxiety. Some evidence even shows that they will be physically healthier.” — New York Times

[S]tudy after study shows that happiness *precedes* important outcomes and indicators of thriving.” — Sonja Lyubomirsky

And so we’ve completed the circle. Happiness does matter. Personal interests do matter. The only question is, how are you going to tap into the power of your child’s authentic interests — and your own?

We see countless examples of people who graduate from college more confused than when they began. They are often terribly disappointed to discover they don’t seem at all suited for a career in their major area of study. They’ve allowed themselves to be molded into a shape that doesn’t fit them because they haven’t learned to think for themselves.”

When we fail to take charge of our education, we fail to take charge of our lives. The result is that we give away our power by letting others decide our fate.

“We have grossly misunderstood the objective of education, allowing our institutions to focus on credentialing instead of the fundamental need for learning that can … enable people to live their lives to the fullest.”

As long as external motivation obliterates the desire to discover what we really care about … we learn how to do, but not how to be. We lose sight of how to find purpose and meaning in the context of our daily lives.” — Charles Hayes

Friday link round-up + updated PBH group guide

Published by Lori Pickert on June 8, 2013 at 07:40 AM

Before we get started, I’ve updated How to Start a Project Group, incorporating the additional suggestions and questions I received after I posted the first draft. If you want to share strategies with other people who are using PBH in co-ops, summer camps, and family PBH groups, join the forum!

We missed last week’s round-up, so here’s what I’ve been sharing on the PBH facebook page for the past couple of weeks…

First, a beautiful blog post Abbey wrote about her “PBH conversion experience”:

“Tonight, I went beyond “mentally committed because this seems like the best choice.” Tonight, I became totally heart-committed and gut-committed to this idea of letting his interests spark and catch fire and burn through acres of material … because tonight, I saw the pure joy in his face at being able to soak up as much information as he could hold with the promise that he would be able to keep coming back for more the next day, the one after that, the one after that, as long as he wanted. …

It was passionate. It was instinctive. It was his idea, his momentum, his knowledge, his research. And yet now, without adult prompting or coaching, he has learned where Argentina is, how big Herrerasaurus was, in what period it lived, what it ate, what its bones looked like, and that it had a small role in the movie Jurassic Park. (A little pop culture knowledge is almost always useful, right?)

I know it might not be like this all the time, but it can be like this at least some of the time. I can do this… I can make this possible for him by creating an environment in which he has what he needs to do this for himself. For the first time, I feel certain that this is the right decision for him and for our family right now. He's more than capable — I’ve always known that.

Now I can picture what it looks like.” — Project-Based Homeschooling: My Conversion Moment @ Surviving Our Blessings

And this is a way we can learn, not just in childhood, but for life:

“Self-directed play allows both children and adults to develop a powerful attention strategy, a strategy that I call ‘relaxed presence.’ …

When you [read or built things as a child], nobody was giving you an assignment, nobody was telling you what to do — there wasn’t any stress around it. You did these things for your own pleasure and joy. As you played, you developed a capacity for attention and for a type of curiosity and experimentation that can happen when you play. You were in the moment, and the moment was unfolding in a natural way.

You were in a state of relaxed presence as you explored your world. At one point, I interviewed a handful of Nobel laureates about their childhood play patterns. They talked about how they expressed their curiosity through experimentation. They enthusiastically described things they built, and how one play experience naturally led into another. In most cases, by the end of the interview, the scientist would say, “This is exactly what I do in my lab today! I’m still playing!’” — The Art of Staying Focused in a Distracting World @ The Atlantic

Bridging from preschool age to Nobel laureates, how does self-directed play and learning look like for older kids? At the IL Math & Science Academy, students get 20% of their time (one school day per week) to work on projects of their own choosing — or just to play:

“Every Wednesday at [the Illinois Math & Sci Acad], students are free to work on whatever they want — to follow their particular passions through self-directed study, internships, or other projects.

“[Peter Chu] spent countless hours playing this Dungeons-and-Dragons-like computer creation, but playing wasn’t enough. He wanted to understand how the game worked and, more importantly, change the things he didn’t like about it. As luck would have it, DikuMUD was open source software, so he was free to download the code that underpinned the game and start hacking it — and that’s what he did.”

“Other IMSA alums have gone on to discover new solar systems, teach neurosurgery, and found such notable tech outfits as YouTube, Yelp, SparkNotes, and OK Cupid. And the spirit that moved Chu to teach himself programming is still very much alive and well.” — Hogwarts for Hackers: Inside the Science and Tech School of Tomorrow @ Wired

This is compared to Google’s 20% time — a perk about which one employee said, “[W]hen you give engineers the chance to apply their passion to their [work], they can do amazing things.”

PBH is about giving kids time to work on their own deep interests, time when they are supported and mentored. It doesn’t have to be the entire curriculum, but it is essential for children to learn to direct and manage their own learning and their own meaningful work.

Kids need white space — they need down time. They need time to relax and play. And they need to develop the ability to manage themselves without being constantly kept busy with activities:

Modern parents are almost obsessed with filling up their children’s time. … [A]lone time is time a son or daughter uses to learn how to entertain themselves or just relax, without help or input from parents, siblings, friends, or babysitters. And it is a crucial aspect of the development of independence.

… The real world is not a constant party, or a day at camp. Real world includes downtime, and it includes alone time. And your job as a parent isn’t to entertain your children 24 hours a day. Introducing your child early on to the idea of spending time alone — and liking it — will help your son and/or daughter become a better companion to others and get more from their relationships with friends — and with you. They will grow to be an adult who can be happy on his/her own, or with someone else. And isn’t that the goal?” — Why Alone Time is So Important for Boys and Girls

In the forum we’ve been talking about how to help a child move from needing 24/7 interaction to being more self-directed.

Since it’s graduation season, we’ve been sharing some advice to graduates — advice that we can integrate into how our kids learn now:

“Jobs suck. At least the traditional version of a job, in which you do something you sorta hate, from 9-5p, and are paid for your time to just grit your teeth and do it. Let’s call this the ‘sell your time’ version of a personal business model: You sell your time to an employer, and they pay you for that time. …

There’s a better way — though it might not be the easiest way. … Learn to make something. Anything.” — New College Grads: Don’t Sell Your Time for a Living @ Andrew Chen

Real skills matter! In fact, they’re the most important thing potential employers care about:

“[T]wo of the first three people I hired for my new company made the decision not to get a college degree, and in both cases, it was the correct decision to make. If you talk to either of them, you will quickly realize that they are more intelligent and intellectual than 99 percent of the ‘degree holding’ population. They read more books than most college graduates I know.

Their head shots are prominently displayed on the ‘Our Team’ page of my venture pitch, and I have yet to have a single investor ask, ‘Where did that guy to go school?’ Investors prefer to ask, ‘What company did you steal them from?’

What’s more, skipping college puts pressure on young people to actually learn real skills and deliver real value — and that is a good thing.” — How Much Does Your College Degree Matter? @ PandoDaily

Scared to deviate from the crowd?

“Standing out seems riskier than conforming. But nobody ever talks about the risks of conforming: boredom (the worst of tortues), an uninteresting narrative (you'll never land your dream job), regret (we don't regret the things we do; we regret the things we don't do), a long and frustrated journey through the rest of your life (stemming from a lack of self-awareness).” — 31 Things I’d Have Told Myself Before College

Personalized education that focuses on your strengths takes you further than one-size-fits-all that focuses on your perceived deficits.

It can be scary to stand out, but even worse to blend in.

Creating a life that reflects your values and satisfies your soul is a rare achievement. In a culture that relentlessly promotes avarice and excess as the good life, a person happy doing his own work is usually considered an eccentric, if not a subversive. Ambition is only understood if it’s to rise to the top of some imaginary ladder of success. Someone who takes an undemanding job because it affords him the time to pursue other interests and activities is considered a flake. A person who abandons a career in order to stay home and raise children is considered not to be living up to his potential — as if a job title and salary are the sole measure of human worth.

You’ll be told in a hundred ways, some subtle and some not, to keep climbing, and never be satisfied with where you are, who you are, and what you’re doing. There are a million ways to sell yourself out, and I guarantee you’ll hear about them.

To invent your own life’s meaning is not easy, but it’s still allowed, and I think you’ll be happier for the trouble.” — Bill Watterson

For those of you attempting to embrace your kids’ love of Minecraft and other screen-related passions, I have some good stuff to share this week:

“I think the potential is really there for us to be raising a new generation of young people who have grown up with technologies that allow them to pursue self-directed learning on their own terms and on their own time schedules.

This is very different from how kids learn in school, where they’re handed a set body of knowledge that they’re asked to master and the expertise really resides in the teacher.

When kids go online in these more informal contexts where they’re pursuing their interests, they can really go, look around, and connect with knowledge, people, online communities that really enable them to tailor and customize what they want to learn, when they want to learn it.

And that is tremendously empowering for kids and motivating for them to learn.” — Dr. Mizuko Ito on Teen Development Online: Interacting with Media

Are your kids fascinated with Minecraft? So are educators:

“‘[T]he really cool thing about Minecraft is there’s an invitation to be creative and an invitation to be customizable and an invitation to engage at that level that’s much more accessible and much more on the surface.’ …

‘I’m interested in how it is providing kids a space to create their own game space and to share those game spaces with each other,’ she says. ‘This is a huge departure, not only from previous games, but previous toys and objects that were given to kids to play. Kids always make their own games in backyards and in schoolyards. And now they have an opportunity to make those games part of their shared culture.’ …

Minecraft certainly promotes some healthy behaviors, she adds.

Aside from rule-free, creative thinking, Grimes says, it encourages and facilitates a healthy co-operation.

‘The fact that you can collaborate in building a world together, you know, it’s amazing,’ she says.” — Minecraft Game Being Hailed as a Teaching Tool

And:

Require self-direction.

Minecraft won’t do anything without the right input from the player. It doesn’t drag you along by the nose, but rather sits and waits for the player to do something important. And with every “correct” action by the player, they are rewarded with more freedom, opportunity and visual evidence of their decisions.” — 5 Lessons to Learn from Minecraft in Education @ TeachThought

Be sure to check out the great Minecraft projects being shared on PBH Kids!

Finally, some encouragement for the PBH grown-ups:

Eventually you will make a decision to forget your craft, or to zero in what you love most about it, truing to it fiercely above the urgent, the insistent, the loud demands that are yelling like a bully in your ear. Eventually it will be up to you to decide to turn a blind eye on the other things, and just pick this one thing. This one thing that feels important to you. That feels like the work you love, and just do it for an hour. Imperfectly. Even if it means you’ll be up a creek later. Even if it means there will be hell to pay. Even if it means the sky will fall. …

Eventually you will make the decision: to let circumstance define you, or to define your circumstance.” — Eventually You Will Make a Decision (or Reminders to Myself) @ Christina Rosalie

And:

Stop listening to the advice of those that say it can’t be done, and seek the advice of those who are successfully doing what you want to do.” — Best Advice I’ve Been Given @ WhipUp

Thank you for hanging out with me on PBH and being part of this community!

I have to say that being a PBH mom has helped me tremendously to see that while being there for my kids, I can support my own work and make my dreams a reality. Learning as I go. — PBH forum comment

Thank you for challenging us parents the way you continually do and sticking up for the rights of children. You know why PBH rocks above all other educational methodologies? Because it’s the only methodology I’ve encountered that requires parents to try to become the best possible version of themselves in order to walk the talk. — PBH parent e-mail

Genuine interest is the magic ingredient that makes learning meaningful — and it’s what learners require to make their best efforts.

When we label a child as a “reluctant learner,” we’re making a big mistake. Not only are we focusing on the reluctance rather than the learning, but we’re telling a child that he has a problem learning. We’re missing the fact that it’s we who have the problem, because we have failed to provide our child with a learning experience that is interesting, relevant, and useful.” — The Myth of the Reluctant Learner

 

Friday link round-up

Published by Lori Pickert on May 17, 2013 at 03:34 PM

My favorite thing this week was something Georgia Schlegel (YarnPirate) said during a conversation on Twitter when I expressed frustration that some people see PBH as just “arts and crafts”:

My five-year-old knows most of the organelles of a cell from his so-called arts and crafts.

To see more of her son’s anatomy project, check it out on PBH Kids!

Some good links about making and doing and sharing this week:

Time is the raw material of creation. Wipe away the magic and myth of creating and all that remains is work: the work of becoming expert through study and practice, the work of finding solutions to problems and problems with those solutions, the work of trial and error, the work of thinking and perfecting, the work of creating. Creating consumes. It is all day, every day. It knows neither weekends nor vacations. It is not when we feel like it. It is habit, compulsion, obsession, vocation. The common thread that links creators is how they spend their time.” — Creative People Say No — Thoughts on Creativity

If you need someone to give you permission to say “no” to something so you can prioritize your meaningful work, this should help. “The math of time is simple: you have less than you think and need more than you know.

I liked this post of Michael’s and we had an interesting discussion about it on Twitter. Some read it as “take 24 hours to commit to working on your top project,” which is hardly doable for parents of young children. I read it as “take 24 hours to focus on one project and not be distracted away from it.” (Can you tell what *my* issue is?)

“Sometimes lack of time or energy make it necessary to make very radical choices about what is important to us, what we want to give priority to and get on with. Sometimes it can just be that the amount of choice and options before us is so overwhelming that reducing them suddenly seems like a breath of fresh air.

Whatever the motivation, I’m increasingly coming to the conclusion that cutting right back and concentrating on very few (or even just ONE) thing is the way forward.” — Distill your ambitions down to their essential core @ Sustainably Creative

Michael writes about doing creative work from the perspective of having a chronic illness that leaves him with low energy; his “important work” equates to my “meaningful work.” I find his work very inspiring; you might want to check it out.

Along with this, Jennifer’s beautiful words as she works on changing her life:

My intention and direction have been set
now I need only to listen
to pay attention
and let go.” — growing :: letting things go @ under the big blue sky

Pay attention to what you want to grow; put your focus there. Let the rest go. Good thoughts for anyone who’s trying to make a change.

A couple of work-related links this week, the first just one great quote from a slideshow by Reid Hoffman (founder of LinkedIn) that’s well worth your time. Having owned two businesses and hired and fired more people than I want to count, I think his advice is pretty much on the money. And forget about college grads — this applies to anyone who wants to accomplish anything:

“Opportunities do not float like clouds in the sky. They’re attached to people. If you’re looking for an opportunity, you’re really looking for a person.” — Amazing Career Advice for College Grads

This is something I’ve experienced in my own life. Magical things can happen if you focus on trying to help people, preferably for free. You can build experience, make contacts, make friends, learn, and grow — and opportunities lie beyond that experience. Concentrate on people — they *are* the opportunities.

An article about work *and* about making and doing:

“There are millions of unfilled jobs in America, and most of them are careers where you actually have to make and build stuff. If you grew up in an affluent environment, then you see your software engineer friends getting jobs easily. But it’s not just them. There are countless labor jobs — everything from HVAC to plumbing — that still pay big dollars. But rich kids don’t even know what those jobs entail.

My advice to young people is to figure out how to make something. That means either working with your hands, or learning how to type code with them.” — Young People Are Screwed … Here’s How to Survive

Even if you go the traditional job route, it’s the people who have real skills — the ones who know how to make and do — who float to the top. This goes back to that “arts and crafts” misunderstanding — it’s not about a pretty picture, it’s about knowing how to plan, execute, revise, build, share, collaborate, and contribute!

And one more thought on prioritizing:

“Make no mistake about it, the things you spend most of your time doing is how the world sees you.” — We Are What We Do, Not What We Say

I’ll add to that: How we live is what our children see and it’s what they internalize. They will do as we do — so it’s crucial that we think hard about what we’re doing and how we’re doing it.

Finally, I’ll end with the quote I shared on Mother’s Day:

Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.” — Oscar Wilde

Hope everyone has a wonderful week!

Friday link round-up

Published by Lori Pickert on March 15, 2013 at 09:08 AM

So, Google Reader bit the dust this week. Just a reminder that you can subscribe to this blog by e-mail if you like — or several people have been recommending Feedly.

Quote for the day:

[Creative children] ask more questions than most children. They’re usually spontaneous and enthusiastic. Their ideas are unique and occasionally strike other kids as weird. They’re independent. Not that they don’t care at all what other kids think, but they’re able to do their thing despite the fact that their peers may think it’s strange. And they have lots and lots of ideas.” — Silvia Rimm

And this week’s Facebook links!

Worried about how much your teens use the internet? It offers kids the chance to direct a lot of their own learning, including for personal projects:

When my daughter graduates from college, I want her to be able to ask interesting questions, make wise choices in where to direct her time and attention, and find a career that is about contributing to a purpose that’s more than her own self-advancement. I am proud of her for managing a rigorous course of study both in school and out of school, but I’m also delighted that she finds the time to cultivate interests in a self-directed way that is about contributing to her community of peers. The Internet and her friends have offered my daughter a lifeline to explore new interests that are not just about the resume and getting ahead of everyone else. In today’s high-pressure climate for teens, the Internet is feeling more and more like one of the few havens they can find for the lessons that matter most.” — What Teens Get About the Internet that Parents Don’t @ The Atlantic

Another quote from the above article:

A college degree is a requirement for most good jobs, but no longer a guarantee of one.

Consequently, kids feel pressure to not only do well on tests and in school, but in their out-of-school activities as well. … The pressure to succeed along narrow paths is exacting a staggering cost on the values and well being of our children. — What Teens Get About the Internet that Parents Don’t @ The Atlantic

Along those lines, this jumped out at me this week:

“Universities must change, [Thomas Friedman] says, from a ‘time served’ model to a ‘stuff learned’ model. He reasons that ‘increasingly the world does not care what you know. Everything is on Google. The world only cares, and will only pay for, what you can do with what you know’.” — Who’s Afraid of the big, bad MOOC? @ Learning with ‘e’s

(If you want a funny take on this, try the Onion’s.)

Obviously, people who succeed have to rise above what everyone knows and what everyone knows how to do — they have to go further, do more. Along those lines, I’ll reshare a quote that I blogged earlier this week:

“Every once in a while — often when we least expect it — we encounter someone more courageous, someone who choose to strive for that which (to us) seemed unrealistically unattainable, even elusive. And we marvel. We swoon. We gape. Often, we are in awe. I think we look at these people as lucky, when in fact, luck has nothing to do with it. It is really about the strength of their imagination; it is about how they constructed the possibilities for their life. In short, unlike me, they didn’t determine what was impossible before it was even possible.” — Imagine more, not less @ Camp Creek Blog

Click over to read the whole quote.

And a couple more blog posts re: those intangible skills that we need to rise above the other B.A.s…

“The brain chunks activities into habits to save mental energy.

When a routine becomes a habit, the brain performs these routines automatically and without thinking.

Healthy habits influence healthy lives and unhealthy habits determine unhealthy lives.

Habits can be changed.” — Change a Habit @ New Discoveries

The takeaway here is that habits can be changed — you are not doomed to stay on an unproductive road! Believe it, then do it.

And another important skill — networking, making friends, building community. This is something I am asked about frequently. How do you do it? This excellent short article gives you the answer — definitely read the whole thing:

“Give. All the time. And never ask for anything return unless you really have to. … This isn’t a ‘favor for a favor’ thing. It’s being a good person. When you truly help people every chance you get, that reputation will get around and people will be more inclined to help you down the line.” — How to Network Without Shaking Hands @ What Spinks Thinks

While you’re out there attempting to build that network, keep in mind we’re all trying to put our best face forward — and we’re all human:

“I’m not the only one who wonders why other mothers seem to have such ordered lives, when mine is a whirlwind. I’m not the only one who thinks that the neighbours can hear me when I shout, and what must they think of me, because of course they never shouted at their children. I’m not the only one who wishes my house could be a little tidier, a little cleaner, like the other mothers I know.

I’m not the only one making comparisons and coming out at the bottom.” — Keeping up appearances @ The Home of Lisa Hassan Scott

Finally, some some great kid PBH goodness:

“He knew exactly where he wanted each box and bottle to go, where to put doors and windows, and even added water to a bottle for a fuel tank.

It was SO HARD to watch him struggle with the tape, or to see him doing something one way when I knew another way would work better. I kept my mouth shut as much as I could, and when I broke down and offered suggestions he almost always said he wanted to figure it out.” — The Rocket Ship @ Lemon Tree Studio

Really inspirational, both the kid work and the parent/mentor work!

We are setting up an area of the blog to share kid projects like this — real, authentic, inspiring. Not a recipe for how to do things, but a glimpse of what is possible. There are quite a few other new site additions in the works, so stay tuned — and join our e-mailing list if you haven’t already. (So far I’ve averaged about one e-mail every six months, so it’s not a spam factory.)

Hope your weekend is wonderful!

Be a part of the PBH community. Project-Based Homeschooling isn’t for only one kind of homeschooler — whether you’re a classicist or a radical unschooler or somewhere in-between, all kids deserve some time to direct and manage their own learning while pursuing their deepest interests. Read the posts on project-based homeschooling. Check out the book. Join the forum. Chat with me on twitter. Follow me on facebook. See my pinterest boards on learning, authentic art, play, and more. Come make friends, get some new ideas, and brainstorm about your challenges.

You need to get comfortable with your flawed humanity. Making excuses so you don’t have to start so you can forestall pain and humiliation just keeps you out of the game. And once you’re in it, if you think success means pretending everything is easy for you and nothing hurts, you’re wrong. What binds us is our common experience. The only way to build intimacy is through vulnerability. When you lift your chin in the air, you can’t look anyone in the eyes.” — Renovating your brain: Building new habits of mind

My children are thriving now where before I could see some struggling and frustration. It’s been fun for me too! We learn and grow together now and there’s nothing boring about our days.” — newest review of Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners

 

Friday link round-up

Published by Lori Pickert on March 1, 2013 at 08:06 AM

Happy Friday! This week on facebook… and some bonus content I didn’t post to facebook as well…

“What story it is I want to tell with my talents? … When I look ahead ten years from now I want to be living my passion. This is just the map to get me there. Pushing off and testing the waters so to speak, exiting the planning stage and creating something, leaving my mark in the world so that I can turn to my daughters one day and say, ‘This is what I have created. Know that you can create something for yourselves too.’” — growing a business: choosing @ under a big blue sky

This is the message of the PBH for Grown-Ups series: that the best way to help our children live an authentic life is to strive for that ourselves. Speaking of which, I added a new quote to that page that says it all:

Train up a child in the way he should go — but be sure you go that way yourself. — Charles Spurgeon

More inspiration from Paul Graham:

I'll start by telling you something you don't have to know in high school: what you want to do with your life. People are always asking you this, so you think you’re supposed to have an answer. But adults ask this mainly as a conversation starter. They want to know what sort of person you are, and this question is just to get you talking. They ask it the way you might poke a hermit crab in a tide pool, to see what it does.

“If I were back in high school and someone asked about my plans, I’d say that my first priority was to learn what the options were. You don’t need to be in a rush to choose your life's work. What you need to do is discover what you like. You have to work on stuff you like if you want to be good at what you do.” — What You’ll Wish You’d Known, by Paul Graham

This reminds me of a post Deb had about asking a teen friend who likes photography if she planned on being a photographer when she grows up.

The minute I said it, I realized that I was doing the very thing that some of the moms and dads and coaches whose kids play competitive sports do: trying to turn an interest into a vocation.

Why? Why do we do this? There is no reason to take something that a kid (or regular person, for that matter) is interested in and push them into making it something more. More. Why do we want everything to be MORE? And don’t you think doing that can ruin the very thing that was previously loved? — Grownups Ruin Everything @ Not Inadequate

One (ha) of my comments in response to this post:

My issue with asking the teenage girl if she wants to be a photographer when she grows up would be — isn’t she *already* a photographer? Do we disrespect the work that kids do because it doesn’t earn money? Because we assume it can’t be that good?

Lots of good discussion in the comments of that post and lots of ideas to unpack about interests and how they tie to income, future or otherwise — another thing we’ve discussed in PBH for Grown-Ups, specifically Getting Out of Your Own Way (self-talk: “Shouldn’t I be earning money for this? Or doing something else that could earn money?”)

When you’re helping your children develop their talents and deeply engage with their interests, how preoccupied are you with how they’re going to translate that into a future income?

How closely tied are education and future career opportunities in your mind?

It is one of the great testaments to the intellectual — and moral, and spiritual — poverty of American society that it makes its most intelligent young people feel like they're being self-indulgent if they pursue their curiosity. You are all told that you're supposed to go to college, but you’re also told that you’re being “self-indulgent” if you actually want to get an education. Or even worse, give yourself one.” — What Are You Going to Do With That? — The Chronicle Review

And speaking of giving yourself an education, maybe you’ll give yourself a job as well —

“My oldest son, Christopher, was not college material. You probably have the wrong idea: it’s not that Chris isn’t smart. Chris is brilliant. But brilliance is not enough to make you college material. Something else is needed: at least an average level of compliance.” — How the Bowyer Family Played the College Tuition Bubble @ Forbes

I have a brilliant, noncompliant son myself… but as a person who has always been self-employed, I am probably more comfortable with an alternate path than most.

Everything seems to point to the fact that our children will most likely be having nontraditional careers. Perhaps nontraditional education is the best preparation for that:

What will be required of our children in the future? They will have to be in charge of their own learning. As college students, as adults, as entrepreneurs, as tradesmen, as parents — they will have to make important decisions and figure out how to get the knowledge and skills they need. When we do start helping them learn how to direct and manage their own learning? When they are teenagers? When they are in college? We need to begin now. — The Myth of the Reluctant Learner

And in that same vein:

We need a curriculum of big questions, examinations where children can talk, share and use the Internet, and new, peer assessment systems. We need children from a range of economic and geographic backgrounds and an army of visionary educators. We need a pedagogy free from fear and focused on the magic of children's innate quest for information and understanding.” — Sugata Mitra: We Need Schools, Not Factories

Of course, if you’re homeschooling you own and operate your own school, so you can fit your child’s education to your particular beliefs. Don’t waste that opportunity — make the most of it.

Some inspiring posts about children and learning from this week:

“I learn a lot from my daughter. That fact releases me from a lot of concerns i used to have about homeschooling her. I homeschool with her. In fact, I can just say we learn together, because that is what we do. We build what works for us; we build it ourselves.” — If you want it, you can build it yourself @ Happyer at Home

A fantastic new series on authentic, process-based art from Amy:

I’m telling you: You are capable enough right now to sit down and make art alongside your kids (even if you think you can’t). If it only takes one person’s encouragement and that person hasn’t shown up in your life yet, I will be that person for you, if you’ll let me.” — {Art Together}: Getting Started @ Kids in the Studio

Annie’s words on helping kids make real books for their writing:

“Making books sends a special message to children as they begin their journey as readers, writers and artists. When you help a child write a book of their own, from the penning of the plot to the drafting of the illustrations, you create an object of permanence. You teach children that their work is valuable, that it is important, that it is worthy. You tell your child, and yourself, that each of us is a writer, an artist, a storyteller, or a poet. We are writers because we write. Artists because we make art.” — Creativity with Alphabet Glue @ Rhythm of the Home

And some important words on creativity’s importance for adults as well:

“Whenever I create something for myself, I have to fight off feeling a bit guilty… as if I was being too self indulgent. This is ridiculous because it’s actually an essential component of self-care. Just like exercise and fresh food is good for the body, creativity feeds the soul… and forming something for one’s self goes even deeper. It has the power to mend a broken spirit and give meaning to our making.” — worthy @ maya*made

And to go along with that, a quote I shared on facebook:

When my daughter was about seven years old, she asked me one day what I did at work. I told her I worked at the college — that my job was to teach people how to draw. She stared back at me, incredulous, and said, “You mean they forget?” — Howard Ikemoto

If you’re still with me, you might want to check out a new review of Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners:

“What Pickert has done with her book is explain in an easy-to-read and practical manner what parents can do at home to ensure that children will take charge of their own education and gain essential skills. If that sounds far-fetched, I suggest you read the book.” — Book review: Project-Based Homeschooling @ Mama of Letters

Shelli is following this up with a three-part (!) interview with me, so if you just can’t get enough Lori, you’re in luck. We’re going to do a Q&A on her blog at the end, too, so lots of PBH talk going on.

That’s all I’ve got this week. Still some stuff on Facebook I’m not sharing, so if you want every last bit of it, follow me there. (For instance, I quoted Seth Godin this week and set off a mini firestorm — you wouldn’t want to miss that!)

Be a part of the PBH community. Project-Based Homeschooling isn’t for only one kind of homeschooler — whether you’re a classicist or a radical unschooler or somewhere in-between, all kids deserve some time to direct and manage their own learning while pursuing their deepest interests. Read the posts on project-based homeschooling. Check out the book. Join the forum. Chat with me on twitter. Follow me on facebook. See my pinterest boards on learning, authentic art, play, and more. Come make friends, get some new ideas, and brainstorm about your challenges.

Allowing children to learn about what interests them is good, but helping them do it in a meaningful, rigorous way is better. Freedom and choice are good, but a life steeped in thinking, learning, and doing is better. It’s not enough to say, “Go, do whatever you like.” To help children become skilled thinkers and learners, to help them become people who make and do, we need a life centered around those experiences. We need to show them how to accomplish the things they want to do. We need to prepare them to make the life they want.” — Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners

 

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