Home > Uncategorized > What Values ARE We Teaching in Schools… and What Values SHOULD We Be Teaching in Schools

What Values ARE We Teaching in Schools… and What Values SHOULD We Be Teaching in Schools

January 29, 2017

As noted in this blog and in almost every publication I read, there is a tremendous pushback against Betsy DeVos, President Trump’s nominee for Secretary of education. This pushback has led opponents to dig deeply into the myriad donations Ms. DeVos and her husband have made to anti-public school organizations and, in doing so, they have uncovered some alarming speeches and reports. In a post yesterday, Diane Ravitch flagged a Huffington Post article by Rebecca Klein that reported on one such speech:

A conservative Christian group with ties to Donald Trump education pick Betsy DeVos once released a promotional video that proudly featured a speaker describing how Adolf Hitler and others indoctrinated children.

The undated video by the Student Statesmanship Institute ― which trains Christian kids to bring their “biblical worldview” to politics and media careers ― opens with a speech by Michigan leader Richard Posthumus, who describes how Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Vladimir Lenin used children to spread their message.

“Sometimes, it seems like it’s very hard to change the world, the world is so big,” Posthumus says in the video, over a dramatic soundtrack. “But what SSI has done is equip young people with the tools to go out and be ready for the competing ideas that’s in this world.”

The video immediately cuts to another comment.

“Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Vladimir Lenin: They knew one thing, that to change a culture, to change a country, they had to reach the children,” he says.

This statement reflects the thinking of many that our public schools are NOT “equipping young people with the tools to go out and be ready for the competing ideas of in this world”. Based on this statement, I sense that SSI is seeking to have the “Christian kids” infuse their work with a “biblical worldview”, an effort that is antithetical to the values I believe are needed to provide students with the skills students need to succeed in the world they are about to enter. And what are those skills? A recent article by Penny Loretto in The Balance provides a good list that mirrors virtually every list I scanned in a quick on line search:

The ability to assess a situation is important in all career fields. Being able to gather information and understand multiple perspectives is critical to moving up in your career.

No matter what the job most of them require a minimum understanding of computers. As a recent college graduate you will have a heads up due to your knowledge of word processing, spreadsheets, presentation software, and email.

The ability to manage multiple priorities by being adaptable and flexible will make you a successful employee in almost any field. Things are changing so rapidly in today’s job market that anyone who cannot change course in mid-stream is bound to be left behind.

The ability to solve problems through creativity and a logical thought process will make you a very valuable member of the team. From handling customer complaints to managing a small or large group of people, these skills are a must.

Since so many jobs require people to effectively work teams in order to get work done, one of the things that employers look for when hiring on new people is previous examples of working on teams either in the classroom or previous internships or jobs. 

The ability to plan, organize, and set realistic goals to get the work done in a realistic timeframe, is most important for anyone starting a new job.

Since many company decisions are based on gathering and analyzing data, it’s imperative that a company’s employees know how to take the raw data and translate it into something meaningful and concrete.

The ability to determine the best course of action based on evaluating all options on logic and fact, directly results in creating intelligent solutions to any problem.

The ability to direct and motivate others is a skill that employers extremely value in the workplace. Employees that move up quickly in an organization usually possess this valuable skill. It is also a skill that can be learned through specific training and experience.

The SSIs predominant goal of training “…Christian kids to bring their “biblical worldview” to politics and media careers” is antithetical to the boldfaced items above. Someone trying to impose their views on other individuals will not be able to “gather information and understand multiple perspectives”, “be adaptable or flexible”, “solve problems through creativity and a logical thought process”, “take the raw data and translate it into something meaningful and concrete”, “(evaluate) all options on logic and fact”, or “direct and motivate others”. These inter-related skills all require the ability to be empathetic: to strive to understand the other person’s viewpoint and find a middle ground between their viewpoint and yours or generate a new way of thinking about things that draws on both backgrounds. If one is unable to understand their own mental formations they will be incapable of understanding another person’s.

While I do not believe SSI’s values will help provide students with the skills listed above, I am not certain that our public schools are based on values that will help develop those skills. Our measurement systems place no value on the instruction of “soft skills” and our schools implicitly overvalue competition and undervalue cooperation. The values our schools need to inculcate will have to wait for a future blogpost… but any insights readers might provide are welcome.

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