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



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)


The Past Week–The Short Version


When I look at the image at the top of the page I see a place that is peaceful as it spins around on its axis. It’s difficult to tell that there was so much violence and destruction that has just past-at least for now.Whole countries have been decimated-people have been killed by nothing more than a severe storm of amazing magnitude. For many, this is a blip on the screen of life. Better them than us I heard someone say and sadly there is much truth in that. But have we really stopped our busy lives long enough to consider just serious and how devastating the past events have been for so many who were already powerless to change the quality of their lives and now they have less than what they had before which was not very much. One thing for sure is that I marvel at the stamina, tenacity and sheer bravery that all those islanders and those in Houston and Florida have shown. They are the true fighters and lovers of the gift of life.  But not much has changed for many of us. Perhaps a few words to describe the difference between self-care and being self-centered would be in order?

In true fashion, we grumbled, although not for long, because the oil companies decided to ‘cash’ in on the horror of it all. Perhaps I would not be quite so ornery if the oil companies had jacked up the price of fuel but instead of looking for the government to shoulder the whole financial responsibility to provide aid and some basic comforts had said they would donate the proceeds from the increased pump and fuel prices to help provide things like clothing, housing, schools, hospital services, decent food and fresh water for those in true need. You know-the necessities of life. After all their own citizens were being crushed as well. I guess they haven’t made enough money this year–got to take care of those pesky shareholders don’t you know.

What a sad lot we are. ‘Nuff said I guess.

A Forward-Thinking Program: Preparing and Educating Our Children For The 21st Century:

The formal text is done and the formatting is being done. Soon we will be out in the community ready to inform those who are interested in how our kids will adjust to the new approach and thinking that will be necessary if they are to have a chance at competing for good fulfilling, creative and exciting careers in the new global marketplace. There are many major changes on the horizon. We can only hope that the government stays away from commenting on how those changes will be instituted. Their job should be to fund and otherwise make the inevitable changes possible to implement to ensure that all the ideas and energy that are sure to be presented are given the time and interest they deserve. They need to leave the creativity, critical thinking and innovation part that will surely be necessary to develop a vision of what is needed to the people who are actually qualified and experienced to do that kind of work. Boards of education need to support and champion the new days and ways of educating our kids. The mentors and coaches and other professionals need to be free to create the ‘how to’ part (new curriculum) so that the real consumers in the system-the students/learners will receive the best, most interesting and challenging system possible. If everyone can swallow their egos and commit to work together for the realization of a common goal, do the part that they are responsible for and set aside their distorted beliefs that they and they alone know better than the folks who live in the trenches regarding what’s best for everyone there is a good chance that we can make this work to the betterment of the real group (the kids) who have been trying to tell us for quite some time now what has to change in order for them to get excited about attending school again.

The task of the government should be to provide all the resources necessary to make the inevitable changes possible and to ensure that all the ideas and energy that are sure to be presented are given the time and interest they deserve. They need to leave the creativity, critical thinking and innovation part that will be necessary to develop a vision of what is needed to the people who are actually qualified and experienced to do that kind of work. Boards of education need to support and champion the new days and ways of educating our kids. They need to support and encourage the mentors, coaches and other professionals to be free to create the ‘how to’ part (new curriculum) so that the real consumers in the system-the students/learners will receive the best, most interesting and challenging system possible.

If everyone can swallow their egos and commit to work together for the realization of a common goal, do the part that they are responsible for and set aside their distorted beliefs that they and they alone know better than the folks who live in the trenches regarding what’s best for everyone there is a good chance that we can make this work to the betterment of the real group (the kids) who have been trying to tell us for quite some time now what has to change in order for them to get excited about attending school again.

Let’s start with one of the main underlying principles that will have to change. Any new system will have to be learner-centered meaning that the learners will decide what they want to learn depending where their interests and skills lie and not the system which strives for conformity but little in the way of creativity.

More to come in the following weeks. We are planning to offer some public forums like town hall meetings around the peninsula in the fall. Our hope is that parent groups, single-parent groups, teachers and union reps, trustees, business owners and any other interested parties will want to know more so that they can help support the work and the learners. Our goal is to to be to produce the best educational system and approach on the planet. Currently South Korea, according to most, holds that distinction.

That’s me done for the week, all the best and thanks for stopping by. Send me a comment if you like–jim.lifechoice@gmail.com

(Image source unknown to me. I do not derive any financial benefit from using this image. It is used for research, criticism or educational purposes.)


What Is The Hidden Danger Our Children Face? . . . And We Can Fix it.

Attention: Please be advised that any reference or use of video is solely for educational purposes and is not meant to assume ownership of the material. 

If you are a grandparent, a co-parents or a single parent this article will be of extreme importance for you. Please don’t pass it over. Those children around you who you love and care for will be eternally grateful to you for your time spent.

The following is an article describing the importance of how we will choose to educate our children. It will explain a little bit about how the goals for educating our children have changed and that’s a GOOD thing. Did someone forget to forward the memo to the rest of us? Be assured. The changes of which I speak will come upon us more quickly as technology continues to challenge the boundaries of our imaginations.  As caregivers and mentors we need to keep up with the changes if we are going to support, encourage and provide our children with an opportunity to self-actualize.

As the research continues it will prove more definitively how the system has changed and what we need to do to encourage our children to keep pace with the changes. If we do this right they will lead us we won’t have to lead them. We owe them the opportunity determine for themselves what kind of education they will receive. We need to listen to them as they tell us what is important to them.

Based on the following information we will see just how we need to change our beliefs and our focus, where we need to change, what we need to change and how to begin that process. There are still those today who believe that the primary way to learn is through reading. There are many of us that understand that statement is not completely accurate. As we can see by the pyramid above there is a demonstrated difference and greater benefit to the learner by engaging the learner in a collaborative learning experience. Kids today want to have a say in the design of their learning experience and they want to be involved in deciding their learning objectives. Learners today also make a strong case for doing away with standardized testing as do a great number of social researchers. Homework will soon be a thing of the past as it will be done in class with the learning to be done in discussion with other class members.

The traditional learning methods including lectures with a talking head at the front of the class, selected reading from textbooks, demonstrations and particular types of audio visual presentations are much less effective then group or class discussions, hands-on exercises (tactile) and practice. Helping and teaching others understand or use the material has a very positive outcome when considering effective ways of learning. These are the ways of the future. Compiling this data and research was done by National Training Laboratories, Bethel, Maine.

Each and everyone of us who is responsible for or to a child to support them and encourage them in their educational pursuits needs to learn as much as they can about the educational system in their community and how to strive to make it better.

I have included a link to Sir Ken Robinson that would be very helpful to all of us in understanding more about the need to move ahead of the century old system that is still in play.

The video is about 10 minutes long. I know-it’s a bit longer than most but it is really well worth it IF you are interested about knowing what is “the learning crisis” that we are living with and what we can do to begin to resolve the problem. This is one of those things where WE can actually do something-right now-to begin the process of change and do a great service to our children and grandchildren.

Anyways, that’s how I see things.

Please pass this along to others-friends and family-especially those who have school age kids or will have very soon.

Send me your comments at: jim.lifechoice@gmail.com  OR  jimcloughley.com

Thanks for stopping by, Jim

Our Kids Biggest Danger Comes From Within . . . (Part 1)

Many of us think that the greatest threat we face is ISIS and terrorism. The Trumps of this world would have us living in a walled fortress with a giant ‘do not disturb’ or ‘you are not welcome here’ sign on the gate. It may keep people out but it also keeps people in. Isolation doesn’t work. It never has-it never will especially since we are now part of a global economy. This, however, is not the greatest threat we face. It is not the most important issue for us to focus on. My bet is that the world will tire of ISIS and their barbaric and backward ideology and rid the planet of a scourge that does not deserve to function on the planet among civilized human beings.

The most important issue of this time is the manner in which we are preparing or not preparing our children regarding their educations. The consequences of being short sighted and stubborn are diminishing our importance and our leadership, as a nation, to compete in the open global market place. Consider where we are right now. We are currently operating under a system that was designed over 150 years ago. The goal of education then was to create ‘graduates’ who would be uniform in their perspectives (standardization, Abundance,Diamandis and Kotler) and to demonstrate the same skills and outcomes (conformity, Abundance,Diamandis and Kotler) as the other guy–skills like ‘arithmetic, reading and writing’. These were the skills needed to apply for employment–this is what business asked for back then. Today employers are more often looking for skills like understanding and forward thinking, being able to offer creativity, collaboration and critical thinking. These are the skills that matter today in order to compete and be successful at gaining new employment opportunities. (Abundance, Diamandis & Kotler). In 2006 a group of executives from over 400 major corporations were asked a simple question: “Are students graduating from school ready to go to work?” Their answer: “Not really.”(Abundance, Diamandis and Kotler) However, as a result of our reluctance to make this shift in priorities truancy is way up, the numbers of graduating students is declining dramatically, and our young men, especially, are dropping out of school at alarming rates. Why?

No wonder the radicalization of our young men and women is becoming a problem. They are disillusioned, disconnected and hopelessness has begun to set in. They want to feel engaged, relevant, impassioned and a part of something important. We are giving them none of it. We are still dictating what they will need to know instead of asking them what they want to learn-what excites THEM. As a consequence they are bored to tears, find the curricula irrelevant to what is required to compete for the type of work THEY want to do and have little or no hope of being able to find work after school is done. Many think they are lazy and can’t handle the pressure of school. I think they are fed up with the system and knowing that it won’t change are just giving up. They are saying they don’t want to look forward to huge student debts and few job opportunities. Instead many are becoming wards of the state basically–welfare kids.

If we want to know what we need to do to change this situation we need to ask the ‘customers’ of the system. In this case that would be the kids. They are the ones that are consuming the services being offered. For us we need to recognize that everything stems from having a well educated population who are motivated, creative,  energized, challenge oriented, excited, thirsty for knowledge and dedicated to being successful. There are many smart kids doing wonderful things in the world but not near the number there could be if we changed how we introduced them to learning and helped develop those skills that are so vital now. We need to change the process and do it now.

It has been proven that well educated people are more likely to create and participate in strong, free and more stable societies therefore suggesting more enduring democracies. Better educated people are also healthier with fewer incidents of stress, less occurrence of diabetes, fewer heart attacks and they enjoy longer lives. Even greater is the need to provide third world women with the opportunities  to be educated along side men. Two-thirds of the 130 million children unable to attend school are females. That will change when we can make education easier to access as has been suggested above. It can be done and by educating women around the world we can substantially reduce world poverty.

Next week I’ll present Part 2 which will outline practical and doable solutions for getting our kids interested, excited and eager to get back into school again. Don’t miss it. This could be one of the most important articles you’ll read all year.

NOTE:  I have indicated within brackets where I obtained information quoted in this article. I would eagerly suggest reading “Abundance” by Diamandis and Kotler for one of the most forward thinking and interesting books to come along in a while.

Anyways, that’s how I see it.

All the best, Jim

Comments and thoughts can be sent my way at jim.lifechoice@gmail.com     OR    jimcloughley.com


Four Changes That Will Keep Our Youth Employed Locally

I recently read an interview in the Welland Tribune by an owner of a machine shop in the area. He had just attended a U35 forum who had been discussing the need to do more to retain local youth in the work force and what some of the barriers are that prevent many from either seeking employment or staying in the employment setting they chose. A high unemployment rate and lack of adequate public transit for starters. I think most would concur.

Many teachers, past and present, as well as many business people see the resolution of the following four points as vital if any change is to take place. If retention of youth skill and talent is the goal but is politically motivated then the conversation won’t last long. Its all been said and done before. We have studied things to death with no adequate response. If the goal is to create or shape a short term solution and see how things go, that won’t work either because many of the youth of today are interested in career building not band aids. The serious students who have made career choices want opportunities to set a career path that has some hope attached to it. They don’t want to get going only to find themselves ‘down sized’ because the grant that they were working under had run out of money and wont be re-funded due to budget cuts. If the conversations drift off to ‘how do we be fair to everyone’ and political correctness rears its ugly head many will back away before they even consider what is being proposed. If we encourage the youth who are qualified, energetic and excited about the prospects of a different approach to get on board with something completely new and they are invited to take part in the solution finding we may just keep them around for longer periods of time.

How Do We Do That?

Thinking outside the box will be imperative. We have gotten so used to thinking within the confines of the past. We take promising new ideas or approaches and try to deliver them or develop them using the old ways and protocols. Unfortunately most people resist change. New ideas must be coupled with new and innovative ways of doing things.

  1. Creating new ways, innovative ways, of delivering information (training) will go a long way to developing a new work ethic. Young graduates today want more money, to work less hours with more perks. So how do we provide that for them but retain the quality and good service that is expected so we can compete? We must remember that future professionals will also experience a higher level of civic involvement, a better quality of life regarding their health, if they enjoy their work they become more innovative and creative, they will enjoy  increased prosperity across the board but more important they will strive to produce. Their work ethic is much different from that of our fathers and it will not return to those same standards. Young employees are motivated by money first then perceived respect from their co-workers and then power in the system. They will respond less often to the call of ‘for the glory of the company.’
  2. We need to consider how students are ‘placed’ into particular streams in schools according to what the school system feels is the right place. Students at least need to have a say in where they go  and what they want to study otherwise we lose them right away. They will always do better when they can chose their own course of action. Then we can work with them to determine an appropriate course of study. It we want them to stay in school for longer periods of time we need to create an environment in which they can make that choice more easily.
  3. There needs to be a different system in place to assess the quality, compatibility and the ability of teachers to assimilate into a new paradigm regarding how we will need to change how we deliver information. They also need to be given the latitude to be innovative and creative in their own classrooms instead of fitting into ONE idea of what a teacher should do and how they do it. Teachers know their classrooms/students better than most. How can we expect our young folks to get energized if the teacher can’t get energized to start with?
  4. Industry needs to assume a much larger role and responsibility in the training of prospective employees. They need to take a lead in preparing our students and work with the educational system to develop and encourage tomorrows designers, innovators and dreamers. They also need to contribute resources to buffer the cost of preparing their new work force-a work force that will provide them with expertly prepared workers who understand exactly what employers are looking for in an employee. They can help prepare better, more important and exciting hands-on co-op programs.

There are people out there who have begun working on some brilliant ideas around just what this article is highlighting. There will be more news to come about all of this but it will only go as far as parents and other interested parties will let it go. It is time for a new way of preparing our youth for the challenges of the millennia. Soon what we are currently doing won’t meet the mark that other countries are achieving.

Anyway, that’s how I see it.

As always your comments are welcome. Please connect with me through my web site at:  jimcloughley.com   OR   jim.lifechoice@gmail.com

All the best, Jim


Author Jim Cloughley's 
Brand New Blueprint For Learning