News Herald – Juliann Talkington
Until about 60 years ago, US kids were exposed to a wide variety of social settings and interacted with people of many different ages. In the 1960s, US schools became more organized and the campus size increased substantially. By the time the Internet gained popularity in the 1990s, many children attended mega schools with thousands of students of similar ages. At the same time sport, church, and after school student activities were segmented for specific age groups. Also, work pressures meant parents had less time to spend with their kids and more for the childrearing duties were delegated to schools.
As a result of all these changes, it became more and more likely that a child could graduate from high school with little exposure to people who were more than a few years older or younger than he/she was.
Employers began noting that younger workers had trouble integrating into group settings and began asking schools to make curriculum changes.
Some schools implemented socialization programs where kids talked about issues and role-played solutions. These efforts were largely unsuccessful because children need concrete skills – self-discipline, respect for others, the ability to solve problems, and the exposure to a wide variety of situations.
Schools did an excellent job of enhancing these skills in the early part of the 20th Century. So rather than reinventing the wheel we need to return to what works.
Students learned self-discipline through handwriting exercises, rigorous math and science problem set-up, and meeting high expectations. There were no calculators, so hard work was required for success. Progressive schools still focus on these “old school” techniques with good success.
Teaching respect was simple. There were rewards for good behavior and consequences for poor behavior. Today is no different. Once children understand what is expected and parents support the school’s efforts kids quickly adapt.
Things were less mechanized in the early part of the 20th Century, so kids tackled real world problems to survive. Today special efforts like cross-disciplinary creativity classes are required to build strong problem solving abilities.
Then, students need exposure to different viewpoints. Just because something is considered fact, does not mean it is correct. Our kids need to be offended from time to time; it allows them to grow and mature. Good schools actively expose kids to different viewpoints and foster discussion.
Preparing kids for a workforce is does not require new systems, but a return to principles that have worked for generations.