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Common sense a prerequisite for brilliance

News Herald – Juliann Talkington

Juliann

Do high standardized test scores assure success?

Many highly-accomplished people had far from perfect scores on the SAT test. Some struggled to get through college and others dropped out. With these results, there must be more to success than academic brilliance.

Granted, technological advances have made academic knowledge, especially in math and the sciences, more important. However, common sense is just as vital as it was fifty years ago. Sadly, many parents have become so focused on academic knowledge and fame that common sense has fallen by the wayside.

Common sense is something most of us understand intuitively, but is difficult to define. It is a combination of wisdom and self-discipline.

According to Wordnik wisdom is, “The ability to discern or judge what is true, right, or lasting.” Wisdom is not something that can be found in a textbook, taught in a classroom, or downloaded from the Internet. It is not tested through standardized tests like the SAT, MCAT, or GRE. Instead it is something that comes with exposure and experience.

The same dictionary defines self-discipline as, “Training and control of one’s conduct.” Self-discipline is generally modeled and taught at home through structure, responsibility, consequences, and praise.

Before the age of helicopter parents, most kids developed common sense as part of everyday life. Children were given considerable responsibility. Parents set expectations and there were consequences for poor choices. Only the winners received trophies. Through the school of hard knocks kids gradually learned how to present ideas, communicate with others, and alert people of delays. They came to understand the importance of punctuality and how to diplomatically address problems.

Now many parents are so worried about the “perfect” D1 sports program, landing a lead movie role, etc. that they do too much of their kids. It is often better to set general extra-curricular involvement requirements and establish minimum effort expectations rather than micromanage.

Finally, it is important for children to take responsibility for their actions. If a child is going to be late, he/she should notify the adult in charge. When a child damages property, he/she needs to earn money for the repair. And when a child performs poorly on a test, he/she needs to get a poor grade rather than have his/her parent negotiate with the principal.

Stepping out of the micromanagement role is challenging. However, it is easier once we realize our children need an environment that fosters common sense to become truly brilliant.

Fake news: improved critical literacy skills are key to telling fact from fiction

The Guardian – Jonathan Douglas

“Fake news is a buzzword of our time, but its impact can be significant. Not only can it threaten our democracy, our confidence in governance, or our trust in journalism, but it has also been reported to distort children’s view of the world. In a digital world, we can no longer take everything we read, hear or see at face value – no matter how reliable we believe the source. Children are increasingly likely to encounter fake news; more young people than ever are using digital media as their main source of news, so they must be equipped with the skills to tell fact from fiction.”(more)

Teach your children to THINK

News Herald – Juliann Talkington

Juliann

Efforts to control the minds of children are at an all-time high. Most kids spend a lot of time learning “what to think” and very little time learning “how to think”. As a result, parents need to take a proactive role to make sure their children are not manipulated.

Mind control has been an issue since the beginning of human existence. The difference today is a new communication medium, the Internet. At first it was a relatively unbiased source of information. As it has matured, governments and companies have learned to control it.

Now Internet searches are based on the preferences of the owners and employees of the search engine companies and paid advertisers. In addition, social media companies have started censoring dialog. Twitter and Facebook recently deleted accounts from people who were promoting ideas that were not popular with company management. While most people do not agree with the viewpoints presented in these accounts, it does not mean it is wise to remove these dissenting voices. If companies can cut these accounts, what prevents them from cutting other accounts when it is political expedient?

History is written by the winners and is often sanitized to support specific political agendas. As a result, school history is generally far from reality. The problem is compounded because standard textbooks are rarely complemented with materials that include opposing viewpoints.

In addition, journalists and writers have prejudices that are based on upbringing, education, and access to information which means most news stories have a significant slant.

In higher education, professors tend to promote similar perspectives, because the tenure and publication system discourages alternative thought. This uniformity of ideas is dangerous, because it can lead to myopia. Some people argue that theories having to do with manmade climate change, technical capabilities of ancient civilizations, and brain differences between genders have not been properly vetted because of this bias.

Fortunately, it is possible for parents to circumvent the mind control efforts. First kids need to learn discipline. Then they need to be taught how to research, respectfully question conventional thinking, and present alternative viewpoints. After that it is important for parents to make sure schools are using textbooks and supporting materials that cover subjects from a variety of perspectives.

Finally, it is imperative for families to discuss classroom topics at home. This way parents can expose their children to viewpoints they may not be hearing at school.

Education on dialogue imperative

News Herald – Juliann Talkington

Juliann

In human societies there will always be differences of views and interests. But the reality today is that we are all interdependent and have to co-exist…. Therefore, the only sensible and intelligent way of resolving differences and clashes of interests, whether between individuals or nations, is through dialogue. – Dalai Lama

Many people find it challenging to converse about subjects that matter deeply to them without getting into a dispute. As a result, public discourse about divisive issues is often characterized by destructive debate that eventually leads to division and violence.

Social media seems to have exacerbated this problem. Before the era of electronic profiles and discussions, communication was face to face, by phone, via email, or in writing. People could select written materials of interest to them and most people were careful to communicate their political and/or social views in ways that were not offensive to those around them.

Now many people log their societal and political viewpoints in social media posts without the normal inhibitions that control they way they communicate in person. Many times the comments are personal attacks rather than ideas. In addition, the caustic comments are continually linked to a person in a visual way that tends to alienate friends and acquaintances that have different views.

While it is comforting to have supporters, it is also important to have outside input. As a result, it is imperative that we find ways to encourage dialogue. For this to happen, people need the freedom to express their viewpoints, regardless of how unconventional or radical, the wisdom and skill to present those ideas in diplomatic ways, and a willingness to listen to opposing viewpoints.

Unfortunately, these skills cannot be learned by osmosis, but must be honed over many years. With the increased focus on standardized tests, many of the classes where students learned to participate in dialog through the discussion on complex topics like firearms, law enforcement, war, race, controlled substances, social programs, gender, corruption, religion, incarceration, media and money, etc. have been removed from school offerings.

Even though these classes are challenging to teach and require government entities to turn a blind eye, students need exposure to topics that have a variety of viewpoints and so they can learn how to effectively communicate with others for the collective good.

If we allow freedom of speech and provide education on effective dialogue, perhaps we can limit the division and violence that is prevalent in the U.S. today.

The value of arts education

Winter Park/Maitland Observer – Melissa Pranke

“Learning through the arts is not a luxury; it’s a necessity if we are to ensure the success of our students in the 21st century. When a group of international CEOs was asked to list the qualities they identified as most important for 21st century leaders, No. 1 on that list was creativity. Not work ethic or experience, but creativity because it encompasses using a logical thought process, creative problem solving skills and higher order thinking, all things regularly taught and encouraged in an arts based curriculum.”(more)

Rote learning is failing science students

Education News – Dr. Shane Bergin

“One of the strongest predictors of a science student’s academic performance is their level of engagement with their learning. There is considerable published evidence showing how inquiry-based, student-centred teaching can create and sustain engaged students who are motivated to learn.”(more)