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

 

 

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.

What Would This Great Storyteller Have Said . . .

As Paul Harvey might have said: And now for the rest of the story.

Last week I was very critical of 3D printers and the potential disaster they represent to the world as a whole. The technology will make it so much easier to kill others and to exact some wild idea of fair play. I went on to talk about how dangerous it will make the world and how it will be for those who are brave enough to try and defend  our way of life and to protect our civil rights. I think of those who concern themselves with the safety of our homes and family. They risk their well being to ensure our security. I’m still fearful of that being jeopardized by somebody with an ax to grind. I understand the frustration and the unfairness–I do. But if that is the only way that we can show our displeasure and anger then we need to go back to the drawing board because it only strengthens the true forces of evil that exist around us. It slides right into the argument that we need to protect ourselves when it is these same forces of evil that we are concerned about. The ‘bad guys’ get more entrenched and legitimate citizens pay the price.

With all that said I must say that the video that follows my offering today has certainly made me sit up–shut up–and pay attention to all the good that 3D printers and that technology can provide for many of us. It is amazing what can be done to further our efforts to provide for many of those who can’t because of a lack of resources or political will.

The advances and designs of medical equipment will be upon us at light speed. I doubt that we be able to keep up with the changes in our personal, industrial, and scientific lives either. Just about anything that we can see or conceive will be duplicated and improved upon using 3D technology. Any of you remember the 6 million dollar man with Lee Majors? Inside of ten years that fantasy is likely to be a reality. There are already or near ready some designs and plans to build a functioning heart for human use. Those who have lost limbs to accident, disease or birth defects will opportunities to use artificial joints and organs that are only dreamed of today.

I guess my thinking has changed somewhat although I still believe that there will be an element who will always pervert progress. In this case the benefits certainly outweigh the drawbacks as this video suggests.

I applaud this father who refused to give up and instead fashioned a solution to his little boy’s problem. That’s what Dads are supposed to do and this man does it in spades.

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

All the best, Jim

Any and all comments will reach me at: jim.lifechoice@gmail.com

 

 

 

What Are Kids Saying About All This?

This doesn’t happen very often. It is both scary and exciting. I’m speaking about an opportunity to witness the creation of a new unique and life defining development in the history of mankind. Sounds a bit over the top, I know, but when seen in context to other remarkable human kind developments it really isn’t. Consider that most innovations are created with the idea of being a great service to humans but inevitably someone figures out how to use the great innovations for negative purposes. Lets look at a list of ten big ones:

10. Splitting the atom–nuclear power

9.   The airplane

8.   The personal computer

7.   The television

6.   Rocketry-being able to beat gravity

5.   The automobile

4.   The submarine

3.   Antibiotics

2.   The internet

1.    The radio

Now we can add 3D printing to the list of notable inventions and innovations. This is Star Trek stuff just a few years ago. Along with these innovations and inventions comes a huge responsibility for society to deal with and unfortunately that means governments will get to determine how the world will respond to 3D printer guns. Charles de Gaulle once said that “politics is too serious a matter to be left to the politicians.” This is my concern as well. If there is a way to screw it up they will find it. All the powerful will weigh in on this topic because there is either too much money to be made or lost. Either way society will have little to say about any outcomes.

Will the discussion focus on societies rights vs. individual human rights? Will the professional spinners (lobbyists) pervert the 1st and 2nd amendments yet again? Should it be the responsibility of government or the public at large being the people who elected the government officials in the first place. Both these groups should have an equal say in something so huge. This is the stuff that changes whole civilizations. I think about the first responders and how much they will need to change policy to survive. Anyone–ANYONE who has a gripe against a police officer, firefighter, EMS person, ambulance divers and the list goes on will become a target every time they go to work. How will that play out with the civil servants who are already dealing with shredded nerves. Try walking down a dark alley sometime late at night and wondering about who you might bump into or whether or not you’ll see your kids in the morning for breakfast. The police and others are already chastised for reacting to quickly to what the police believe are life threatening situations. Think about how it will be now when anyone could have a a gun capable of blowing your brains out. Hey, let’s pay them less and stress them out even more. I don’t think we can pay them enough to keep us safe-not now anyway.

I am not interested in sowing the seeds of paranoia and conspiracies. However, the reality is that no one will be safe from anyone who wants to make a point. No way of knowing which gang has what or which kid had a bad day at school or if his/her relationship just fell apart and he/she wanted someone to pay for that so BANG. Ooops, gee I’m sorry it won’t happen again. There is already a dearth of consequences for choices made in the judicial system so where will this go now? It seems that we make laws based on how much we can save the system if we excuse this or extend that. This is a train wreck waiting to happen–one that we are extremely ill prepared to deal with.

There will be NO way of tracking who has a gun now. No way of knowing how big and powerful it might be. I haven’t mentioned the threat from foreign agents/terrorists who will be a great deal more difficult to identify. I’m thinking that we are a great deal closer to a modern day “wild, wild west” then we were a year or two ago.

The group that I would be most interested in hearing from are the kids out there who have to live in this crap and fear everyday. When I say kids I’m referring to those who are teenagers and up. It’s their world as well and in some cases they have been hit much harder than the adults have. Let’s hear what they have to say. They seem to be much more energetic and creative about resolving these gun control issues that we adults struggle with.

Anyways, that’s how I see things.

All the best and thanks for stopping by, all the best, Jim

To  make a comment or two please send it to me at: jim.lifechoice@gmail.com

(photo image by utube.com. Image used for research, education or criticism. I derive no financial benefit from the use of this image.)

 

 

One Thing That Men Need That Women May Not Realize

Over the course of time I have worked in this field I have worked with gay couples, older couples, younger couples, racially mixed couples, previously divorced couples, couples with blended families and whomever that leaves. The conventional wisdom suggests that counsellors at some time would ask the individuals to describe their view of what a relationship is and what does it take to make it successful. So off they go talking about the importance of trust, a similar sense of humour, similar likes and dislikes, respect, love, the need for acceptance of whom each is but seldom does either party mention the one element–the one statement that is vital to a relationship if there is going to be any harmony and joy. It doesn’t mean that a relationship couldn’t be created and functioning but it does mean that that 5% or so that many hold back gets committed as well–it’s ALL IN TIME and for some that’s hard to do.

Never having been female I can’t speak to what females feel or value outside of what conventional wisdom dictates. But I can state that in my opinion the male ego is likely the most “fragile” of all. The one thing most important to a man is to know that someone, hopefully his partner, believes in him. Sounds too simple to be true and yet there it is. When we look at the list of “ingredients” many women have that would describe a great relationship this “ingredient” is usually not there. How difficult is it then to develop a sense of trust in someone if you don’t believe in who he is or what he does or how he does it. Believing in someone means that we trust that person to do the right things; that he will keep his family provided for and safe no matter what happens; that he will “take the bullet” for the family because that is what a man does. A partner believes in his talent and skills as a man to do what needs to be done.

Now before anyone blows up here think about the next time that limb over the house needs to be trimmed back. Whose the likely candidate to grab the chain saw and climb the thirty feet to the top to trim the tree. He needs to feel that his loved one or ones believe he’ll get the job done–that he has the skills and the courage to get the job done because he is who he is.

It is difficult to move ahead and to succeed without someone telling us that they believe in us and that they have faith we can do whatever we want once we decide.

Amanda Marshall, an outstanding Canadian talent says it about as good as anyone when she sings I Believe In You. Take the time to listen to this great song to understand the full meaning of what I’m trying to say.

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

Please let me hear from you about your feelings on this topic. send them to me at:  jim.lifechoice@gmail.com

 

 

(Photo image by islandweddingservices.com–used for education, research and/or criticism purposes only. I derive no financial benefit from the use of this image)

Is There A Difference Between Selfishness and Self Interest? . . .Surprise!

I wonder sometimes if we, as a civilization, are becoming more of what we expected from each other or are we becoming more self-interested? And if it’s about paying more attention to self-interest is that a bad thing? What are the differences between selfishness and self-interest anyway?

Remember when we were kids our parents and grand-parents would tell us not to “brag”-that wasn’t nice to talk about yourself. Our churches preached on giving all we have to others first and not to pursue wealth as a goal. In my day to day work with other people I often deal with those who are conflicted by the use of alcohol or drugs or perhaps it’s a gambling addiction or a shopping addiction. Many folks present with sex addictions or being addicted to the Internet. Are all addictions simply about being selfish or can they be about putting their self-interests at the top of their list of what they believe is in their best interests? Who really knows why people use “stuff” until they realize they can’t live without it? One thing, it seems for sure, is that the line between selfishness and seeking self interests is fine at best and often blurred. Many struggle with trying to determine which is which.

When we watch today’s parents struggling with this dilemma in terms of what to tell or say to their kids it is somewhat easier to understand the behaviour of many of our kids today. They have not received a clear message regarding which is which and so they just do what feels right at the time with not a great deal of consistency. I often wonder if our struggles with bullying aren’t a by-product of the lack of an unclear explanation of which is which. Our schools say it is wrong to bully others but do they present a clear explanation of “why” it’s wrong? Perhaps the bully’s argument would be that when they are holding power over someone else that is the only time that they feel good about themselves. How do we counter that logic?

There are many instances when we have justifiably made a decision to react or respond to something or someone in a way that would suggest we put our own best interests and desires ahead of others. I remember a time when I had a chance to attend a function at the last moment and it was something that I really wanted to attend but I had told someone that I would do something with them. I chose to offer a bit of “untruth”and attended the function instead. We pass these times off as telling a “little white lie” with little or no harm done. I try not to do that anymore.

However, I still need to be able to explain the differences between the two states of mind. Is there a clear distinction between the two? I’m not sure there is but I can recite some of the principles that are recognized as being part of one camp of thought or the other.

Someone who is said to be “selfish” is one who gets his/her own way and does so by ignoring or not taking into account the rights and well-being of someone else. If I get what I want on the back of someone else I would be seen by most as being selfish. It is not a matter of getting what you need but instead it’s what you want. It then becomes a matter of not caring how your decision affects anyone else. At this point folks would say “yes, but what if I need so and so. Obviously if something is life threatening involving your life or the lives of others that takes priority over everything else. If you had to harm someone else in order to prevent harm coming to someone else therein lies the issue. I believe you do what you feel is right and deal with the fine points later.

The difference with pursuing something connected to “self-interest” is that you don’t continue on at the expense of someone else’s freedoms or rights. That doesn’t mean that we can’t carry on but we need to help the person who will be affected by our decision understand why we are doing what we plan to do and that we continue, not because we don’t care about the other person and their rights and freedoms but because we need to do what we are about to do–it is important to our well-being.

So the distinctions  are: selfish–wants met with no regard to how others could be or would be affected. Self-interest–needs met with regards to how others might be affected by our behaviour.  Not everyone will understand and there will always be some who see what we do as selfish. Hopefully there will be those who see what we did as being motivated by “self-interest.” There is no preventing the dichotomy that develops. Truly, I am more concerned about what WE are left with in our being and how we look in the mirror and say that was the right thing to do.

Anyways, that’s how I see things.

All the best, Jim

Comments will find me at: jim.lifechoice@gmail.com. All comments are welcome.

(Image/quote resource used for education, research or criticism purposes only. 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)

It Was True Then-It’s Worse Now . . .

The following is a re-post of an article I wrote in November 2013. In it I wrote about the issues concerning fatherless boys and how this has been the most serious issue of our time. Not much has been done since but I feel it is important to note here that many of the mass murders in schools and public places have been perpetrated by fatherless sons. When are we going to “get it” that this is a problem-a big problem and unless we do something (as a community) of great importance more senseless murders and slaughters will continue to take place. It was true in 2013 and it is certainly true today-5 years later:

“Perhaps if I were to title my life I would tag it with ‘As the pendulum swings’. It is no secret that I have a become involved in the discussion regarding the challenges young men face in today’s world especially if they are fatherless. Involved to the point where I penned a book called  “A Man’s Work Is Never Done…A Novel About Mentoring Our Sons”.

Unless you have been living under a rock for the last 2-3 generations you would know that many young men are struggling mightily with the changes that are happening all around them. In short there is no lack of research that tells us many of our young men are just not able to keep up with the ever changing expectations that society now has placed on them. Traditional roles are being re-defined with little discussion about what that means to all those affected. This is due, I believe, to an inflated importance defined by political correctness. Peer pressure and bullying are climbing the list very quickly and the list goes on. As a consequence to all of this there is a co-incidental or perhaps not so co-incidental rise regarding many social indicators which suggest that we, as parents and guardians, teachers and mentors have lost touch with what it is our young men desperately need from us right now. We seem to be at a loss as to how to help them or where to go from here. We create harsher penalties for some things but mete out a slap on the hand for others creating a sense of confusion and a lack of boundaries, responsibility or accountability for decisions that are being made. We build bigger penal institutions, we employ ‘tough love’ approaches, we try to be their best friends, we make excuses for their horrible behavior and we have instilled a sense of entitlement in them that will surely lead, more often than not, to their demise whether that ends in death (suicides) or a complete breakdown of our social fabric. In any case the point to be made here is that none of this works.

I recently read, with great interest, a report tabled by two female social scientists/researchers. The essence of their report was that fathers are just not all that important in the scheme of things when talking about what and how a young man learns what he needs to know to be successful. I’m not sure what ‘successful’ means in this case. How do we define ‘success’ anyway? What are the criteria? Success, to me as a man in the world, is about helping a young man understand how to use and how to live the characteristics that define us as men each day. As mentors we need to help him become more aware of them as he moves from boyhood to manhood. These ingrained character traits are simple. They are also basic and are intrinsic in men. Try to alter them, downplay or dismiss their importance is simply a large part of the problem we find ourselves faced with today. They also allow us to respond with freedom to the needs of family and the community we live in. Math and history can be learned but one cannot teach what seems to come to us naturally. We can explain, model and clarify what they are and what they mean. There are some things that haven’t changed in the last several hundred years if not longer. I am referring to our basic needs as human beings. We still need clothing, water, air, shelter, food and I’d like to add love and affection. Most kids learn and respond to what they see going on around them. To a young man-‘pa’ is everything. He is a teacher and a role model, a protector and provider, a mentor and a warrior.

My question,then, is do the social scientists really understand what a young man is truly thinking about when they ask the questions and surmise what the answers mean? Can anyone explain clearly what another is thinking and feeling at any given time? I doubt it. Who among us can describe what a cherry tastes like when you pick it fresh from the tree. Or what chocolate tastes like as it melts in your mouth.

After twenty plus years of hearing the stories from many fathers and sons about this very topic. I have put together a list of basic things that most sons need from their fathers or a strong and trusted role model that are necessary in order for a young man to engage in the process of transitioning from boyhood to manhood. I have been asked to share this list with anyone who is interested in learning more about this. Many who asked were single moms, single dads and grandparents. So I will try to add another ‘basic’ from the list in following blogs.

This first ‘thing’ that fathers need to give their sons is a must. As dads, role models or as mentors we need to give our sons our undivided TIME. If we say that we are going to do something with our sons then nothing short of an emergency or crisis should come between that promise and our time with our sons. He learns to trust what you say. By doing this first it establishes the footings upon which credibility is built. It also says that you see him as important and that he matters–that he is relevant. At this point we are planting seeds anticipating the growth that will follow.”

That’s the way I see it anyway, Jim

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

Should Learners Design Their Own Educational Futures?

Many people who are parents, professionals, business owners-large and small, teachers and students are beginning to voice their thoughts and feelings regarding the very question that headlines this article. Some are saying ‘yes’ and some are saying ‘no.’

My answer to this question is an enthusiastic “yes.” The following is “why.”

First of all there are the very basic thoughts about this question.  Of course there are many questions that will come from the question itself. Generally speaking some of the obvious ones are: Why shouldn’t they be able to decide what they want to do to earn a living when they grow into adults? Are learners mature enough to make these important decisions? Parents worry that junior will pick all the “easy” stuff and won’t be prepared to “do battle” upon graduation for those diminishing employment opportunities?  If I am willing to pay the cost of tuition and all the attached costs why shouldn’t I study what I feel adds interest and relevance to my life? There are many more but hopefully you get the gist of what I’m writing about.

There are concerns about education becoming too dependent upon technology to adequately educate our children and that we are moving much too fast. Learners still value contact and the connectedness they experience with human beings–mentors/coaches. If the learners aren’t getting what they need, they’ll slow down the use of technology.

For me my reasons speak to the need to grow the understanding that our learners need to be more competitive on the International stage. We need to demonstrate, more clearly, the need to address the long overdue changes identified with the current pedagogy. In 1962-Hall-Dennis suggested dramatic changes in how we educated our kids and not much was done to address those ideas. Now we are playing “catch-up” because many other countries who were struggling with global standards and ranking saw the need to change-did so-and now we are following their lead in many cases.

This is not a condemnation of our system. This is not a criticism of our teachers. This is, however, a comment on some of the decisions that were made years ago that have hampered our growth and our inability to change how we do things in education. The University of Toronto-a fine school by all accounts ranks 22nd Internationally tied with The National University of Singapore. U of T is the only Canadian School in the top 25. Oxford and Cambridge rank 1 & 2 Internationally. These are the 2018 rankings.

The point to this is we have to change the way we do business-the way we do education in this country and we need to start by letting the actual drivers of the system have a much greater say in how things are done–student satisfaction and success go a long way to changing the perception other countries have of us.

Here are my 5 reasons why learners should design their own educational futures:

  1. The most important driving force in education today is the learner. They are the ones who foster change in the system and we would be well served if we paid more attention to what it is they have to say. In a true sense the system is supposed to work for them and not the other way around. They would be the ones who regulate the overall content and the amount of influence technology would have on course design. They recognize the importance of the human factor in any learning environment.
  2. It’s a given that there still is some need for rote learning in a number of the courses the learners might choose. If we listen to the learners they will tell us (the system) how much is enough. It needs to be dropped as a practice but continued as a necessity for those professions that require it. It still can be a learning tool.
  3. Learners need to be able to select and study what they favour–what they are interested in doing when they grow up. They will never know what those interests might be if they are never exposed to the information and a hands-on opportunity to experience working in a particular field. We need to get over the idea that university is a 4 year  plan and that we know what’s best for them. If it takes 5 or 6 years to graduate then so be it. Kids learn at different speeds-It is too great a mistake for kids to be pushed through a course of study to graduation just because they changed their minds half way through a program. Better they have a chance to pursue something they are interested in than to work at something they dislike.
  4. In the future certifications will not hold much value. The true proof for a potential employee will be how well they do with on the job examinations testing for particular skills sets and how successful are they are with the competency based testing they are likely to experience. Kids need to select particular skill based programs that they will need to develop so they can be more successful. THEY are the ones that know what they need more than others. They should be able to choose what they need to be comfortable and more confident.
  5. Kids just learn better and faster when they choose to study and learn about topics that are of interest to them. The system needs to put together a study plan that includes these interests but also prepares them for the supporting education that helps them to succeed.

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

Comments can find me at jim.lifechoice@gmail.com

(Disclaimer: Photo resources used in this article were used for Education, Research or Criticism purposes only. I derive no financial benefit from the use of this image.)

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