Have You Really Thought About The Quality Of Your Child’s Public Education?

Who sees your kids more than you do? School teachers. Who has more opportunity to influence your kids than you do? School systems. Yet parents, for the most part, spend less time speaking about or thinking about what is happening at school and what are they being taught. We send them off in the morning expecting to see them at the end of the day but beyond that we don’t give their day much thought. We assume that they are looked after and that they are learning something useful. We trust schools and school systems to know how to do their job and we just accept the fact that when they graduate they will do fine “out there.” That is happening less and less on many fronts.

I often wonder how many parents actually take time at the end of the day to talk with their kids and ask about what they learned at school that day or how did school go today or what was something you learned today that you didn’t know anything about? In other words what happened that was interesting.

And so it goes. Each day the kid goes off to a place that parents know little about being told or given tons of data/facts that really don’t have much relevance to the kids everyday living experience and we, as parents, can’t understand why our kids aren’t crazy about going to school each day and doing better. Could it be that school is long, boring, and not much fun? There are any number of kids that would say the same thing when they get home at the end of the day. It was boring and they ask why they have to learn that stuff. Plus they have an hour or more homework to do for tomorrow and they don’t have a clue how to do it or what to do about it.

They sit in a classroom 6 rows across and 5 rows deep or vice versa for hours listening to a talking head fire data/information at them with the expectation that they will “get it.” And we can’t understand why some kids are trouble makers, disruptive or hard to manage. How many of those get diagnosed with ADD and put on meds?

Many questions remain when I think about the relevance of the current pedagogy and the value and relevance of the curriculum that is presented each new school year.  Talk to some of the teachers and they will tell you what they think is going on but no one seems to hear what it is they are saying. They are trying to tell us that “we have to change how we do school-this system isn’t working.”

Along with those concerns is the bigger problem being the reluctance to change anything or update the overall approach of the public school system as it stands.

I know this much and that is that the system has become virtually unresponsive to the issues being mentioned. It needs to change dramatically and almost immediately if we hope to offer our children a chance to compete with other kids from other countries for challenging, rewarding and high paying jobs.

So how do we do that? Parents–whoever and wherever you are you need to get involved with what is happening with your kids future. That means you will have to become better informed about the options out there for your kids to gain an education that will help prepare them for the professional challenges of the 21st century. There are more options available than you know. The public system, although preferable, is not the only option. But to become more informed you need to talk to your kids and ask the right questions. Be prepared to listen to them because they are the experts on what is or is not working in today’s classrooms. They know what the changes are that need to be made and why they need to be made.

With a great deal of passion, assistance and input from a well informed and motivated group of colleagues and educators I have spent the last three years creating a new approach to educating our kids that addresses many of the issues I mentioned above.

First thing needed is to understand what some of the options are. Check out the differences and the pros and cons of Charter schools, magnet schools, public schools, private schools and home schooling. Once you understand some of the differences and the similarities you can now ask the important questions from the school board members and the trustees and you’ll know more about the quality and validity of the answers you get in return.

I’ll be writing much more about this topic in the weeks to come. I’ll share some of the solutions and suggestions that we came up with as a result of our research and from some of the actual experiences some of my colleagues had that worked in their classrooms but were never considered alternatives or even food for thought.

The following statement is the goal that we have identified for our group. It can be done but only if the parents who really care about the quality and the opportunity their kids receive speak up and are heard.

“To offer a new paradigm regarding a free, non-discriminatory, local, national, and global learner centered education program that merges enthusiasm, participation, and excitement with each learner’s unique differences, a capacity for high performance, and an innate desire to maximize self.”

I’ll be absent next week but I’ll write more about this in two weeks. Eventually I will provide an outline of the program we develop on my web page at jimcloughley.com

Anyways, that’s how I see things, all the best, Jim

 

 

Dress Code? Uniforms? What Would You Wear To Work?

There is a growing controversy centered on or around what kids are wearing to school these days. Out of this comes the debate about whether or not schools need to implement a policy about wearing a school uniform while attending school, imposing a dress code or allowing students to determine their own ideas of “what is appropriate for school” attire. It seems that the last idea is losing ground to the school uniform supporters. Where do the parents fit into all of this?

I often wonder if the parents even care about what their kids look like when they go to school each morning? Does it make any difference to them if Susie is wearing a little top that exposes her red bra and a generous portion of her chest or that Billy has decided to wear his new Joe Boxer underwear with the blue waist band and the generous view of his back side along with the bulk of his jeans hanging in a pile around his knees as he tries valiantly to walk down the front steps to the bus? I think the only people who REALLY care are the manufacturers of the jeans who are grabbing 70 bucks a pair and saying how cool he looks!! I feel badly for Billy in that it seems he can’t determine how to wear his hat. Front to back or back to the front? Does the beak point more to one side or the other?

It’s the schools which seem to be caught in the middle trying to be politically correct and yet trying to support the idea that kids need to be able to express their identities and their characters. Nice way to dodge the responsibility of setting reasonable standards.

To begin with there needs to be some serious dialogue offered to the “rocket scientists” who seem content on blaming a great deal of this controversy on the female population suggesting that dress codes are needed to curb the temptations they project onto the poor defenseless male populations in the school. Apparently these females are compromising the males ability to concentrate on the subject matter and therefore are in danger of not doing well in school. Perhaps they are not doing well because the curriculum is failing to deliver a source of interest for these unfortunate young men and some of the half naked females are a pleasant diversion.

First of all we need to look at the motivation behind the behavior which in this case is the propensity of adolescents to push the boundaries. Kids are being asked/expected to act like adults so they will promote themselves as adults. However, the idea that women should be identified and singled out as the main part of the “problem” is absurd and even more so when they are being told that THEY need to change but the males are free to carry on.

Advertisers and designers have, for years, been the driving force behind how our youth present themselves to the public at large. Nothing has changed except they have focused more on the idea that less is better and suggests more freedom of expression which is, of course, our kids right. So fashion sends the messages to the world in general: It’s more difficult to be accepted if you are not”fashionable.” Tattoos, the car you drive or the shoes you wear are often about the message you want to send to others around you. Males and females have now taken to carrying guns and knives as a way of sending messages to those around them especially at school. Weapons like this have almost become another part of the “current school uniform” as sad as that is to say.

Then there is the style that many kids-females and males alike-demonstrate. Gansta for one, other gang affiliations, the ‘tough guy’ look meant to intimidate and so on. I always think about what the message is supposed to be that these folks are trying to send the rest. Put that inclination in a school setting and there is a recipe for disaster and turmoil and puts education on the back burner for sure.

Lets not lose sight of the prime objective and that is to establish schools as safe and encouraging environments in which to learn. If schools represent the opportunity to learn, grow and develop the skills that will help us live our lives with success as we have defined it. How does getting caught up in the dress code vs. uniform debate help anything. It really has nothing to do with free choice or economics. The choice should not be about dress codes ect. The choices open to learners and the parents of those learners needs to be–are you going to school or not?

Learners need to dress for success meaning in this case that they dress each day as though they were going to work. How would you dress if you were going to work in an office space or as a professional of some sort? The first thing that needs to be done is to show some respect for where you are earning a living. Go to school dressed the same way. It’s an expectation not a debate.

Anyways, that’s how I see things. Thanks for stopping by, all the best, Jim

Comments can be made by contacting me at: jim.lifechoice@gmail.com

(Photo, by abj.eics.ab.ca, is used for education, research or for the purposes of offering criticism only. I derive no financial benefit from the use of this image)

PS–My colleagues and I will soon be unveiling portions of our new paradigm for educating and preparing our kids for the 21st Century. It will revolutionize the way they learn and will do it better than we do it now.  More on this in a couple of weeks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parenting Then And Now. . . Is It Really All That Different?

When I look at this image I see 4 people who are older or younger than each other but I can’t tell what they are thinking or how they see the world they live in. I wonder if any of them stop to think about how our world has arrived at it’s present state. What has changed? Why is it so much different from the way it was say 50 years ago. One answer would be how we each parent or parented our children. Now the youngest one pictured in this image hasn’t had any parenting experience and very little life experience but it is what it is and so she has little to compare her present life situation with. Her life is ‘normal’ for what she knows.

Technology has certainly changed many things in terms of how we spend our time. We encourage and expect our kids to grow up much quicker now than before because progress has sped up our living experience. But we need to understand that the brain is a much slower developing organ these days than the human body. Don’t get left behind is the panicked message that most parents send their kids. The pressure to grow up fast and assume responsibility creates a great deal of stress that kids aren’t equipped to handle partially because they have never been taught how to do that. Parents aren’t equipped to do that work because THEY were never taught. It wasn’t necessary during their childhood or at least never acknowledged or spoken of and schools wouldn’t dream of touching that topic in school (check out my web site at jimcloughley.com for more information on what our kids should be learning at school). Over the last two generations thoughts and actions have changed from teaching our children about how to be good citizens to striving to get all they could  and to take care of themselves first. Compassion is not a word that is familiar to a great number of kids today. Bullying, gang violence and mass murders are a visual symptom of this.

As often happens the pendulum of common sense swings so far to one side or the other and does so very quickly. Consequently human beings find it difficult to keep up with the pace of change. Rather than seek a balance between rapid change and thoughtful consideration of facts and experience we jump on the first idea that makes a modicum of sense and go with that forgetting or passing by all the wonderful lessons and ideals from our pasts. These are things that worked for us and helped us navigate the world we lived in when we were growing up. We were guided by the concepts of respect for others and especially our elders, generosity of spirit, accountability for our decisions, hard work and the idea that we were not entitled to anything. If you wanted something you worked for it. Not every kid gets a trophy just for showing up. His/her self esteem will survive such a tragic event.

Today, many parents are at a loss to figure out how to parent their children successfully. I suggest we consider applying the lessons we learned that made a critical impact on the quality of our lives as we grew up and combine them with some of the great messages and some of the new ideas that are based in solid successes of the day. Instead, this generations’ ideas about how to parent have come from reading books and listening to the so called experts. We depend more on what others tell us we should be doing to parent our kids responsibly and not from what we believe, intrinsically, to be true for us.

True that life has changed and we need to change with it. That is not in question. The question is HOW will we do that? Consider how we create and nurture relationships. This simple act has changed dramatically. There are many more common law relationships and many more single parented homes directed mostly by women (exceptional growth of father-less homes) then there were a generation ago. Many parents struggle with just saying “no” believing in the “democratic” parenting method of kids making their own choices. There are times when there should be no options. Instead we, as parents, might need to remove any options until we feel the kid is capable of understanding and accepting the responsibility of making a poor decision. That is called accountability. A weak judicial system needs to be more responsive and creative when dealing with juvenile delinquency. Many children don’t seem to respect others property and physical welfare. They, not their parents, need to pay for the damage they create to society. On and on we go.

As parents we don’t want to risk damaging our kids self-esteem or dent their precious little egos. Yet the incidence of teen suicide creeps higher every year. There is growing evidence of depression at much younger ages and very mixed views on the roles that are presented by women and men.

Our “modern day” parenting approaches and ideas don’t seem to be working well. Perhaps we need to consider what we are NOT doing to parent our children responsibly and return to a time when we held our kids responsible for their behavior. A good place to start I think. There were consequences but also lessons learned that were often the difference between trouble and learning experimentally–a powerful and long lasting way of learning. Just a thought.

Anyways, that’s how I see things today.

All the best, Jim

Comments will find me at:    jim.lifechoice@gmail.com. Please pass this article along to friends and family.

This image (considerable.com) was used for education, research or criticism purposes only. I derive no financial benefit from the use of this image.

So I’m Hearing Big Business Can’t Be Trusted . . .

Where was this picture taken?–could be anywhere. It seems this scene is becoming more and more common place these days. This could be the town YOU live in. Let’s hope that this pic wasn’t taken on an ordinary day.

There are, of course, pros and cons to the cap and trade program but for me one of the benefits of living with a cap and trade policy is that the quality of the air that ALL of us breathe will be better. We can only hope that water pollution and earth bound pollution would be positively affected as well. I’m thinking about my granddaughter and other peoples’ grandchildren and their children. What gives us the right to condemn them to a life of illness or cancer or lung disease. They don’t even get to have a say in what happens to them. Actually, they not likely think too much about pollution. Inherently they believe that the adults in their lives will protect them from the bad things that could happen to them. How we doin’ so far?

Meanwhile morons like the one just elected would spend 30 million dollars of our money fighting to open the gates to big business so they can continue to screw us over under the guise of working in our best interests.

Government paid lobbyists and spin artists will be paid millions of dollars to tell us why they are right and we aren’t. Just a minute–Our newly elected government citing fiscal responsibility as part of its platform will spend 30million dollars on court costs and fees and pay professional spinners many millions more so that big business can make more money by using our environment as one huge toilet. All of this while claiming to be operating in our best interests. Really? Don’t you just love politics.

To be clear if big business grew some “nuts” and worked to support the general population and to promote a sense of responsibility and true citizenship we wouldn’t need a cap and trade policy. This is more about their greed and egotism and yet they ask us why we don’t trust them to act in our best interests. To be clear I’m all for profit on investment but how much is enough and at what cost?

Anyone remember the”acid rain” concerns in the 80’s? It’s interesting to note that the U.S. has had a cap and trade program to curb sulphur dioxide and nitrous oxide emissions in effect since the 80’s and it is still in play without any of the ‘fears’ of the naysayers coming true. Emissions have been reduced by 50% with no negative ramifications to big business. The big winner has been the environment and a generally healthier population.

So some of the general concerns pro and con:

Businesses that have chosen to be more responsible concerning the environment can actually make a profit from a cap and trade situation. For instance, If they have already lowered their emissions below what they would be assessed at they can sell the balance of their emission allotment for cash. The cash would come from those companies who haven’t been able to or haven’t bothered to be responsible partners on the planet and are now required to lower their emissions or be penalised in order to continue to do business.

The government can also purchase emission credits and then resell those same credits at increased values to companies who are not in compliance and need to be or continue to be fined. The money that is raised either by fines or by selling emission credits would then be used to fund the development of new energy sources that would benefit businesses as a whole.  As capitalists there are times when we need to understand that to make money sometimes money has to be spent. Business cannot continue to suck the daylights out of the very people who contribute to their bottom line. Those companies who are forward thinking will be and should be rewarded for their foresight and their diligence–progressive thinking helps as well.

To those businesses who are whining about not being able to compete because of unfair differences of production costs I say–“If you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen”–can’t compete that’s your problem. Isn’t that what business says to us?

Perhaps some kind of a sliding scale of tax credits for equipment bought to lower emissions? Perhaps business could suggest something. Perhaps we could all work together with the best interests of everyone in mind not just those looking to get to the bank more often.

Anyways, that’s how I see things, all the best, Jim

(Photo image by cnn.com. Used for research, criticism and/or educational purposes. I derive no financial benefit from the use of this image)

Comments to: jim.lifechoice@gmail.com

 

 

 

What Does It Mean To Be Authentic?

I’ll try to keep this little meltdown “authentic.

The other day I was thinking about the struggles that some have around being who they really are. So few of us really know and understand who we are and what we are supposed to be doing. How are we supposed to respond to the things that go on around us? What are we supposed to think? How are we supposed to think? What happens if no one else feels as we do or sees things as we do or feels the same about things that happen as we do?

And my question is “why do we care?” And then I got to thinking about my own life and how it is going by so fast and the older I get the faster it goes. There is so much I have to do yet and not enough time to do it all.  Now I have written about this topic several times but this time it feels different somehow. Perhaps it is because I am still doing the work I do and many of my clients are people with real issues and real hurts. Some are so depressed and others are so lonely. Still others are just bewildered by life itself.

The one most common comment or factor if you like is that most, not all, but most spend much of their leisure hours watching reality shows. I cannot begin to tell you just how sad I feel that so many folks only feel alive when they are watching someone else living their dreams or what they believe is a magic world of some kind. There are many who believe that this is real life and they would be much, much happier if they could trade places with the people n the screen.

But it is not just reality shows as I’ve come to believe. It is about people who wish they were anyone but who they are. How sad is that?

There are those who spend thousands trying to look different physically. They gather the latest trends in fashion or style hoping to be blended into the crowd that is seen as “it.”  Appearance is everything because they are afraid to be who they really are. At what point did we become so insecure and so lost? We try so hard to be all things to all people that we forget who we are and how important that is. We want to be connected to other people so much so that we are willing to give up our own authenticity-our own identity and uniqueness. There is only one of us. Why would we want to give “us” away so that we could become like someone else? We need to celebrate who we are and how we became us.

My hope is that we can stop chasing dreams, phonies and folks who are trying desperately to be someone other than who they are. These people are acting out roles that have been scripted for them. Is that really who you want to be? Not me-not for a second.

One client asked me this week “how do I begin being authentic”–Number 1–start being real in terms of how you see the world. Don’t be afraid of being different-of not going along with the crowd and don’t be afraid of stating your mind-saying what you really feel, think and how you see things. Be willing to speak your truth about things. Afterall your thoughts and perspectives have value because they are yours. Don’t give away your power to someone else. You have as much right to be you as they do to be them.

Other qualities of an authentic person:

–They are open and sharing about things that they are passionate about. They don’t balk at wearing their feelings out where others can see them

–Learning is important to authentic people and so is learning from the mistakes they make.

–Usually indicate a clear understanding of reality

–They look for the best in others and celebrate their achievements

–They understand what motivates them.

–Their words and their actions are consistent

In this day and age where we live fast and loose we are forgetting about a very important part of our humanity and that is authenticity–being true to oneself and living a life filled with honesty and transparency, being able to look at ourselves in a mirror and like who and what we see, not being ego bound but rather able to share joy with others and to find the most important lessons within our own fields of experience.

Most importantly is the idea that we need to live for ourselves and for what we are passionate about and then call on our fortitude, strength, drive and conviction to follow that through. We need to see that passion become reality and not remain some fantasy. Even in the face of being alone and being criticized.

Anyways, that’s how I see things today.

Any comments can be made to jim.lifechoice@gmail.com

All the best, Jim

( Photo image by “joansanusi.com” used for education, criticism or research purposes only. I do not derive any financial benefit from the use of this image)

Teacher Centered Education vs. Learner Centered Education . . . Part 2

Last week I wrote about some of the on going discussion concerning how the earlier approach to educating our children has served us well but the time has come to reform the system so that our kids are more suitably prepared for the needs and challenges they will experience   when they enter the marketplace seeking employment. If we listen to our children and young adults we will hear them speaking about the need for a more relevant education and not being fully prepared to embrace the expectations that the marketplace will demand from them especially when that concerns a lack of soft skills–critical thinking, being able to collaborate and work in groups, to be a self starter and to demonstrate creativity and problem solving skills.

Recently I was asked the question: “Who has the most influence with our kids when we think about education and learning?” With little hesitation I responded by saying “parents–no doubt in my mind.” This is not a criticism levelled at parents–there is no “blame” intended here. Parents are the initial providers and guides responsible for their children’s view of the world they live in. Not only do parents send the messages but they also create the images that influence the thoughts, morals, values and insights their children will bring to the world. Unfortunately there are many parents who don’t understand this connection. Our children seek reassurance involving their search for their identity, their purpose and their feelings of being connected. If they don’t get those needs met at home they will get them met in other places but they will get them met.

Schools, then, become the next logical place to get that training. Schools and their purpose have changed dramatically in the last 20 years but curricula and teaching style/approach have not kept up to the need for change. Children have indicated that they need a different approach and so have those professionals who are asked to provide services to promote safer and more convivial communities. In many instances the services those professionals provide are stretched to their financial limits with no remedy in sight.

A group of colleagues who are experts in the field of providing progressive education have helped me put together a very brief outline of what this new approach could look like: (In no particular order of importance-it is all important)

–Kids learn at different speeds. Some are slower at grasping concepts than others. It doesn’t mean that they are slow learners but rather it takes a while to understand the concept and how to apply it in a practical way. We cannot demand that they learn quicker than they are able and therefore we need to do away with the “grade” system. There are alternatives that can be used to gauge a learners progress that are much less stressful. Grades are great for grading the quality of meat or eggs but not human beings. The “learners” will tell us when they are ready to move on to the next level or the next unit regarding a particular topic. To push them before they are ready or able just sets them up for failure.

–No homework or very limited amounts of it. “Home work” should be done at school as part of a group learning exercise so that more kids can learn at the same time rather than a teacher (educator) working with one student at at time. In some instances kids will learn from other kids by discussing solutions that other kids found. There is no proof that more homework promotes more learning.

–Learners (students) will work with their mentors/coaches (educators) and parents to design a learning/study plan that reflects the learners interests, skills, talents and strengths. Before you start with “Kids don’t know what they want or he/she will take all the easy subjects first” know that kids are voracious learners-they WANT TO LEARN and they will apply themselves more diligently if they are really interested in what and HOW the information is presented.  Kids need to have a sense of having some control and some input into what and who they become when they reach adulthood.

–Standardized testing is not particularly helpful to the child but more so for the program itself. Many funding formulae are attached to the outcomes of standardized tests. Schools with higher test results often get more money. Kids don’t benefit by being compared with how others are doing. At the least test results need to be discussed with the learner to find out what can be done to raise their own test scores if need be.

–In many instances hard-to-serve kids are not those with mental health problems or behavioural problems but rather those who are bored, disinterested or having trouble assimilating the information into their day to day lives and therefore don’t see the point to listening.

–Curricula must address the needs of the “whole learner.” Kids need to learn about the causes of stress, depression, anxiety and panic–what they are–and how to mange the symptoms. They need to learn much more about substance abuse and drug abuse and how they affect physical functioning and what is dependence?

There is so much more to know and learn about regarding learner centered education. Go to U-tube and type in Sir Ken Robinson. He is an expert in the field. He offers so much clear and basic information about learning and education. He does offer a book among the many he has written on this topic targeted specifically to parents to help them understand how to get in involved with their kids, the educational system and how to get the most out of it.

As parents we need to be interested and excited about what and how our kids learn. We also need to be concerned about what is going to happen next regarding education because it can help determine progress, stability, well being, quality of life, fairness and social justice,  freedom and solutions to world issues like homelessness, poverty, global health and wealth. I want to know that our kids will be prepared for what is coming and perhaps be an integral part of that change process. They are or can be the true agents of change. We need to make sure that they have what they need to to be successful.

Anyways, that’s how I see things, thanks for stopping by, Jim

Other videos about the need to change education by Sir Ken Robinson-click on the highlighted text.

Comments to: jim.lifechoice@gmail.com

(Photo images by ‘gettingsmart.com’–used for the purposes of education, criticism or research. I derive no financial benefit from the use of this image)

 

Teacher Centered Education vs. Learner Centered Education . . . ? Part 1

I will admit that the image I used at the top of the article is a bit overstated but not by much. Not every classroom looks like this regarding student interest but most are not too far removed from this image either. The point is there are some and that’s too many. After how many years of “investigating” alternate methods of educating our children we have come up with very little that would constitute any meaningful change and the learners in our school systems would likely agree. There has been a great deal of press coverage that has not done a creditable job outlining or explaining the new thinking about transforming education. It is so much more than just providing information and data and expecting the kids to pick it up or understand it in some form that they might be able to use somehow-someday-perhaps. The kids are telling us what they need and to date we have only paid them lip service.

I fully support, endorse, agree, and hope that we can find a way to listen to what our kids and the experts who know what needs to happen to move ahead are saying. We need to begin transforming education and the methods by which our kids are supposed to learn.

The place to start is to provide a simple, clear, no double speak and easy to understand description of the two options one of which is most likely to be implemented.

The first option is to tinker with what is happening and has been happening for a very long time. This option would see a minimum of change take place and not much improvement in the outcomes. Classrooms would continue to be served by one teacher generally at the front of the classroom who requires the learners (students) to be quiet and focused and to pay attention to what he/she is saying. This person is often referred to as the “sage on the stage.” The second option would represent wholesale change in that there is no “talking head or sage on the stage” but rather an educator who presents information by many different means–eg. technology, u-tube presentations, experiential methods–“Do and learn” instead of “learn and do.”

Many parents and the general public for that matter have been told a slightly different story about what a learner centered program VS. a teacher centered program is about.

Some of the misconceptions about a learner centered program suggest that the students will only study what they want. Many believe that kids aren’t mature enough to create a course of study that will be of use to them when they enter college or university. In fact the concern is that they will not be prepared to succeed at that level. Yes there will be some major changes in the study programs–certainly curriculum  will be different and yes the students will have choices about what they want to study according to their interests, skills and talents. Why would they study programs and try to incorporate information/data that they believe has no relevance to their ambitions or life goals. Although the challenge is about deciding and understanding the choices they make the other challenge is to decide HOW they will receive the data or information in a way that makes sense to them and that they understand. Here we are discussing the “pedagogy”–the method used or the practice exhibited when “teaching.” The old system would have students sit still, be quiet, allow the teacher to be in total control of dialogue and discussion. A new learner centered program would turn that around so that the students could speak, discuss, ask questions, work in groups thereby developing their skills regarding collaboration, communication and investigation but most of all it provides an opportunity for the learner to feel that they are in control or have some control of their lives, what they decide and which area of interest they want to pursue. This is as it should be. They want to be equal partners in the choices and decisions they are expected to make concerning their futures.

In the movie “Whose Life Is It Anyways” Richard Dreyfuss helps the audience see that we are each given a life which is unique to us and because it belongs to us we have a right to spend it as we choose.  It would be easy for a conversation about this topic to branch off in all directions. The point remains that we may not agree with the choices our children make about their education or any other decisions for that matter but as long as those decisions don’t encroach upon the rights of others to do the same–meaning make decisions that they believe are made in their own best interest, we really don’t have much to say unless asked for our opinion or feedback.

This is a 2 part series. Next week we will look at a variety of topics including:

–doing away with the need for homework; doing away with standardized testing; eliminating the use of “grades (grade 10 or grade 11 etc.) and grading in general; what it means to educate the ‘whole’ learner and who are the hard-to-serve learners? I’m sure there will be other topics as well.

We may not want to think about it but education and doing it in concert with the new social times is more crucial to address–NOW– than important issues such as poverty, homelessness, political correctness, immigration and on. This is not to take away from the importance of those other issues but this one is the one that will help solve the other social issues of our time.

Anyways, that’s how I see things.

I welcome your views so please send comments to jim.lifechoice@gmail.com

All the best, Jim

(use of the photo image by ‘getsomezzz.blogspot.com’ used for research, educational or criticism purposes. I derive no financial benefit from the use of this image)

 

 

Is Sex As Important As It Once Was . . .

Now I fully agree that I am not a spring chicken anymore but I am not an old prude either. As I survey my life I have come to understand that one of the most important aspects of human life on the planet has changed dramatically since I wore a younger man’s clothes. Being able to enjoy sex used to mean something and I’m sure, to many, it still does but for many more it seems as though it means very little beyond “a stress reliever.” I generalise to be sure but if we look at how we refer to enjoying sex over the years and what it meant you judge.

In the 60’s sex was, for many, a way of relating to another human being in a way that said how much they cared for their partner. It was considered the ultimate act or “gift”, if you like, that one person gave to another. It was something to cherish and was beautiful. The consent by a female partner meant that she cared for her partner and that the act was a special way of saying that “you are more important to me than any other.” It was a way of connecting in an absolute way that was not matched any other way. I guess that was a time when “no” really meant no thank you and that was respected.

Then came the “hippie” era, of which I was a part, and the meaning of sex and it’s importance in defining relationships changed-dramatically in some places. That was a time when “freedom” to express oneself was growing faster than many of us could understand. Sex became much more casual. It was a way of meeting someone or a way to demonstrate that you were “one of the adventuresome.” It also was a way of saying that this is my body and I will share it with those I please, when I please and where I please. It was truly the the definitive statement regarding defining one’s independence. Parents were rendered almost useless in trying to establish any rule for “law and order” and in many cases self-respect. Now I’m not complaining because as a young man I “benefited” from this lessening of the rules as did much of the free world but the meaning and importance -the innocence and the sense of connection established between two people had  changed forever. Enjoying sex with someone had lost it’s defining quality.

In today’s world we don’t refer to it as having sex as often as we say that we are “hooking up” with so and so. This is “kid-speak” for being or trying to be adult like. Having sex for some is about as meaningful as going to the mall to hang around for something to do. For many it means very little other than a way of gaining more attention or acceptance into a particular group of others. To me it sounds as though they are going fishing or something. Enjoying sex might be as enjoyable today as much as at any other time but the meaning and speciality of the act is, in my mind, long gone by. It has become more selfish than it has anything else. Again in my mind I believe that when society adopted the era of “near unlimited personal freedom” without much thought given to the possible ensuing social problems connected to such a shift we now see that the lack of those same social norms have lead to a wholesale change in our culture and value systems. Caring for self and preserving a sense of dignity seems less important to many.

Today our kids face dangers the likes of which have not occurred and sadly it is by their own hand. The incidence of STD’s like chlamydia, gonorrhoea and syphilis have reached all time highs in US history. If it’s happening there it usually happens here as well. Half of the reported cases of being infected with an STD, which number in the millions each year, affect the age group of 15-24 years of age. One of the most disturbing statistics in this age group indicates that the number of  newborns born with an STD is rising rapidly. That is selfish and that lack of knowledge or disregard borders on criminal to me. Outside of rape of incest there is NO defence for this fact.

I may be getting older but I am not getting to the point, yet, where I cannot feel sorry for the kids today who practice a disregard for anything that is special or once considered sacred besides their electronic devices. Parents—Where are you? If there ever was a time when parents need to stand up and start a revolution of their own-NOW would be that time.

Anyways, that’s how I see things.

All the best, Jim

Any comments will find me by sending an email to:   jim.lifechoice@gmail.com

 

I Think Some Parents Need To Go Back To School To Learn How To . . .

It sure isn’t easy being a parent these days and when I think about how it used to be and how it is now I can begin to understand why teen suicide rates have dramatically increased. I am not blaming parents for not caring. I am suggesting that parents need to go back to square one and begin to evaluate how they are parenting their kids and based on what philosophy–what approach?

Life has changed for all of us–both kids and parents. Young adults seem to be taking on parental roles earlier than they used to. The problem with this is that many young parents aren’t quite ready to BE parents yet-they aren’t ready to give up those days when they could still act like kids themselves. They work hard at being a “young and progressive parent” and as a result they end up trying to be their kids best friend–Sorry but research tells us this approach doesn’t work out well for either the kid or the parent. Kids don’t need their parents to be their friends. They likely have friends that they count on for friendship and discussing the worlds’ secrets and have much more in common with their real friends than they do with a much older person who needs to be acting as a parent first and foremost. They need the guidance and the experience that someone their own age can’t possibly provide them. Yet we see Moms who dress like their teenage daughters and Dads who want “junior” to emulate them-“a chip off the old block”as it were.

But the major life issues for our kids mostly go unnoticed or left unaddressed. Situations like childhood depression, stress, substance use and abuse, promiscuity, bullying or being bullied, difficulty at school both academically and behaviourally, loss of interest around friends, eating disorders, teen violence, watching porn, general high risk behaviour, more isolation, addiction to violence and “murder simulated video games. There is much more going on but hopefully you get the idea. It doesn’t strike me as surprising that teen suicide rates have and continue to rise dramatically. Yet parents are still in denial about the causes and possible reasons why this is happening. Here are some ideas around the “why.”

  1. Many parents have just stopped being parents. As with many things that occur these days we tend to gravitate to particular theories and instead of using a modicum of sense we go all or nothing. This has occurred with particular philosophies concerning parenting. A prime example of this would be the decision to parent by democratic process. Some would call it “permissive” parenting-allowing kids to make their own decisions from options they believe they can choose from. If this is the style you would like to employ as parents then as parents you need to create a list of options that are presented to the kids designed to provide maximum security and safety. These are options that parents believe are in the best interest of their child/children. No other options should be considered and kids still get to choose what they want from the list presented to them.
  2. Parents need to allow their kids to grow up at reasonable pace. Using phrases and sending messages like “when are you ever going to grow up” and “act your age” and “if you want to be treated like an adult then start acting like one-take some responsibility” are not very helpful and certainly don’t build any sense of security and maturity into a parental/child relationship. Let them grow as they will and when you notice a consistent change in behaviour make a positive comment about it. Remember that kids will grow and learn at their own speed. Some kids grow faster than others. But at ALL times they learn from watching and listening how their parents handle stress, how they communicate with each other, if they are respectful to each other or do they get their way by threatening the other parent. View violence as a mediator and kids will believe that’s the way things get done.
  3. You’re the parent–set some boundaries. Start by limiting the time that kids spend on their electronic devices. It’s OK to do that even if the kids don’t think so at the time. No devices or buds at the table during meals either. No phone calls during dinner time. Once you’ve go them there show them some interest by asking how their day went, how is school going, tell us about one thing that you learned that was interesting and why–anything to engage them in a conversation of some kind.
  4. Kids feel safe and secure and much more confident in a home that has structure. Be sure to create structure and rules for living that are not oppressive but rather democratic (when all agree) and realistic boundaries. For example, if you make a mess then you clean a mess. Don’t leave it for someone else to do and expect the same from your kids. They will eventually warm to the idea that rules can be a good thing. They provide consistency.

I’ve included a great resource for you to check out. Please take the time to do that. All or any of our kids or grand kids for that matter (grand parents need to be mindful as well) could be at risk and if we are not diligent and willing to do all we can at all times it may be one of us who is the receiver of horrible news. Are you willing to take that risk?    http://www.zurinstitute.com/teenviolence.html

Anyways, that’s how I see things.

All the best, Jim

All comments are welcome: jim.lifechoice@gmail.com

(Photo by helpguide.com. Used for education, research or criticism purpose. I derive no financial benefit from the use of this image)

What They Don’t Teach Our Kids In School . . .

I had mentioned last week that I will be sharing my thinking on education and how there is a growing concern about how and what our kids are learning and hearing in school. Again, to be clear, I am not criticizing our teachers. I have no doubt that the majority are fine educators who care and take great pride in the work they do. My position has always been that it is not the teachers who are struggling but rather the system that they are expected to work in. I’m also quite certain that we are doing the best we can given the pedagogy but it is not good enough given the demands and expectations of todays marketplace. Business is saying so and a growing number of college and university students are saying so. The focus of “education” needs to be re-visited and a new definition of what education means needs to be agreed to. WE NEED TO DO IT DIFFERENTLY TO SATISFY THE DEMANDS OF THE NEW WORLD THAT IS COMING.

While saying this we also need to understand that our kids have changed as well. Their basic needs and demands are different. The world is not the same place as it was when we were school age kids. For as much as the world has changed it has not become an easier place in which to live. I have recently begun to read a book by Steven Pinker called “Enlightenment Now-The case for reason, science, humanism and progress.” Want to get a broader and more in depth idea about where we are going-read this.

So what is it our kids aren’t being taught in school. We seem to think that as long as we teach them about the STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and how to remember enough about them that somehow we are going to be alright. We are about so much more than that and to assume that somehow schools have figured out what we need is naive at best. As we become more entrenched and more dependent on technology to lead us along. In the process we have become less dependent on our natural skills and less aware of what our human needs are. You can’t know what you don’t know.

Things that have happened recently in Toronto are easily explained away by saying the antagonists and perpetrators have mental health problems. In stead of taking responsibility for what is going on we are too busy looking to blame something or someone for what is going on. As a professional I looked at life at home first and then beyond. Our children are products of what they see and hear at home or by those around them. If we take a look at just one aspect of what is happening with our kids: teenage suicides have increased by 30-40% in the last 5 years–why? Some speculate that it is because of social media and spending upwards of 5-6 hours per day being “connected.” There is the whole cyber bullying thing going on and the pressure to “fit in” to a group. There are the inflated pressures of familial expectations to succeed-go to the best schools or to be all things-great athlete, great student, popular and so on. Medical prescriptions being written for our kids borders on criminal in my mind. Many of our children live in a world that doesn’t truly exist-often alone. They are usually right when they tells us “we don’t understand their world.”

The role of schools needs to be re-defined. I’m not meaning changing them into re-habs to treat drug and alcohol abuse or to treat mental health concerns but we need to recognize that there are other important things like real world issues that need to be discussed and understood. Our children need to feel they have a voice in these matters–that they are a part of something. Kids need to learn about how to recognize the symptoms of anger or stress or depression and be introduced to strategies and approaches that will help to reduce the anxiety they experience. They need to talk about these situations to adults they know or are familiar with–not referred to someone else a week or a month down the road. They need to hear that it’s OK to talk about these things. Education needs to teach the “WHOLE LEARNER” not just the student from the neck up.

Kids have far to much time on their hands that is not productive time spent. Technology was supposed to allow for people to get involved in other activities like learning new skills or finding out about pursuing other interests. For kids it was supposed to create more time to socialize and play. Kids also have managed to incorporate the word “entitlement” into their daily beliefs and rules for living to the point where they feel free to do what they choose to do in the name of freedom. The REAL world doesn’t work that way. Few observe or have no boundaries. That to me is what school needs to help them learn. How to live without this warped sense of what’s right and fair.

What happened recently in Toronto is evidence of where things are heading. This is not just an example of wanton destruction of human life but a real message that says something is really wrong with how we are living our lives as a society–PAY ATTENTION folks, our kids and trying to tell us something and we aren’t listening very well.

Anyways, that’s how I see things. Thanks for stopping by.

Comments will find me at: jim.lifechoice@gmail.com 

(Photo image by usatoday.com. Image used for criticism, research and/or education. I gain no finanacial benefit from the use of this image)

 

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