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Posts Tagged ‘Self-awareness’

Florida Legislature to Students: Want a Scholarship? Forget Liberal Arts and Go Only for a High ROI

April 8, 2021 Leave a comment

As the NBC report below indicates, the conservative legislature in Florida is considering the passage of a bill that would stop the issuance of State scholarships to students who are not majoring in subjects that will result in highly compensated jobs. The effect of this would be the de facto end of scholarships for liberal arts majors and anyone aspiring to a career in public service… which would include social workers, nurses, and (ahem) teachers— none of whom, especially in Florida, will ever earn as much as, say, real estate sales persons. If our country is only interested in money, this is what the future holds… and the Democrats were all in on an Return On Investment model during Obama’s years.

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Three Skills Students Need to Master in a Future Where the Workplace is Dominated by Robots: Coding? Essay Writing, and How to Recreate.

March 18, 2021 Comments off

Jim Hightower’s thought provoking Common Dreams post ominously titled “Robots are Coming for Millions of Jobs” brought a question to mind. If robots are going to be taking over every iterative white color task and schools and colleges  are expected to prepare their graduates for “the Workforce of the Future”, what kinds of skills should these education institutions be teaching? My answer is in addition to the traditional curriculum in place today, the one that students “cover” in order to prepare for the standardized tests used to assess their performance, students should learn how to code, how to write an essay writing, and how to recreate.

As robot technology emerged over the past decade, many policy makers recommended that every student should learn “how to code”. This recommendation was based on the premise that the higher-paying jobs of the future would require this skill of everyone. While I don’t think that the economy will ever require as many coders as it will require school teachers, delivery persons, or health care providers, I do believe there is another moreimgportant reason to learn this skill. By learning about codes and algorithms students gain an appreciation for the limits of robotics and the power of their own minds. That, in turn, will help them appreciate the importance of creativity and open-mindedness, skills that humans possess but robots lack. Moreover, it will help them gain a self-awareness that will open more doors for them than the skill of writing code.

A second life skill that all students will need in the future is one that I believe they need to posses now: the ability to write the standard “five-paragraph essay” where you open with an introduction that advances three ideas followed by three paragraphs that elaborate on those ideas, and a concluding summary paragraph. This recommendation is counterintuitive given that robots are now writing text for platforms like Facebook and even sports stories and reports on town governments for local newspapers. But as one who writes on a near daily basis, I find that the five-paragraph format forces me to crystallize my thinking and continuously improve my vocabulary so they I can choose the words that most precisely capture the thoughts I want to share. This is not easy and it often feels like I am never completely able to achieve my purpose of exposing my thinking. It does, however, add to my self-awareness and to an awareness of others when I am writing a persuasive essay because it compels me to craft my writing so that my ideas will resonate with those who do not share my world view.

A third life skill that is grossly underemphasized is the ability to recreate… that is the ability to amuse oneself in a healthy way. There is an assumption in our recreation culture now that emphasizes achievement, advancement and victory without regard for the need to be fit and have peace of mind. Absent the emphasis on lifelong fitness in physical education and the emphasis on creativity in the current metrics children and students at all grade levels see activity as good in and of itself. Yet most of life is spent sleeping, resting, and reflecting. Those skills should be taught and emphasized in schools.

My fifth and final paragraph, then, will underscore the common thread that runs through the middle paragraphs: self-awareness and reflection are far more important than getting the highest grades as compared to ones peers or getting victory at the expense of others. Those lessons are appreciated late in life need to be taught and appreciated early.

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Riding the Bus Routes to Deliver Meals to Homes is Eye Opening Experience in Rural New England

March 11, 2021 Comments off

Our local newspaper, the Valley News, invited readers to share their personal stories about the pandemic and today’s piece by veteran teacher Ted Pogacar reminded me how important it is for educators to become familiar with the homes children live in… and how impossible that is when things are “normal”.

To his credit, Mr. Pogacar does not mention the squalor I am certain he must have witnessed in some of the homes he visited but instead focuses on the work of the unsung heroes who keep track of the households that need additional food and help mete out the provisions available.

The article brought to mind my first year working as Principal in Western Maine, an assignment I took after teaching in an economically depressed section of Philadelphia and serving as Assistant Principal in a blue collar suburb whose fortunes were on the decline. My experience in rural New England was recreational: hiking and camping in the White Mountains as a child and sightseeing and hiking as an adult. When visiting rural New England I was stuck by its serene woods, stunning mountain landscapes, clear waters in the brooks that cascade out of the mountains, and separation from the bustle and problems of the city. When I started talking to the counselors, office staff, custodians, and colleagues who lived in the beautiful region where I landed I heard stories of the economic hardship children in the school experienced, stories that were much like those I encountered in West Philadelphia and the “rough and tumble” district I worked in just outside of Philadelphia. The peaceful woods hid the many ramshackle homes that children in school lived in and the clean, well cared for town centers masked the poverty that spread throughout the back country.

The impact of poverty in urban areas is clear and obvious. Boarded up buildings, poorly maintained public spaces, and treeless desolate streets all signal a neighborhoods distress. The distress in rural New England is not obvious at first glance… but the bus drivers witness it daily, the cafeteria workers know the kids who need to get seconds, and the teachers and counselors who connect with children raised in poverty all know the hardships they endure. The lone guidance counselor who served the 700 middle and high school students in the high school I led took me on a trip through the woods when I first came so that I would be aware that not every child came from the kinds of homes in town that I was familiar with or was raised in the kind of household I knew as a child. It made me appreciate that rural poverty poses the same challenges for children as poverty in the urban areas… and those challenges are far more daunting than anything I encountered growing up.