Are We Preparing Our Kids for the Future?
A child's success in life is any parent's most important concern. We do our best and hope that we have done all that we can do in preparing them for the future. Although we may start grooming our children early by stimulating their minds with educational toys and extracurricular activities, we could still be falling short by not providing them with the tools they will need to prosper in the real world.
Children Learn in Different Ways
Not all students process information in the same ways, so varying approaches to learning has been a good trend in education. It allows children to explore interests and home in on their innate talents. Encouraging small interactive activity groups prepares our kids for the creative exchange of team projects. Classroom subjects should continue to encompass both academics and topics of everyday life, ethics, and the future workplace where both vocational and resolution skills are required.
Opportunities Are Not Always Equal
There is still a great divide between those who can advance through education and vocational training and those who fight to escape the never-ending cycles of poverty, drugs, and gang-violence. Mentoring programs are desperately needed in these communities, and the outreach needs to start when kids are 5-8 yrs. old before the negative effects of peer pressure take hold.
The Shift to Technology
Technology has given us an information highway at our fingertips, social networking across the globe, and a host of new job opportunities as the needs of society continue to change. On the other hand, it has reduced the need for human interaction in many fields and has widened the gap between highly skilled and unskilled labor. Are we adequately preparing our kids for what lies ahead?
Greater Populations Mean Longer Waits
Due to overcrowding at state colleges and the wait to get required classes, the standard 4 years to graduation is no longer the case for the majority of students. The latest statistics show that only 40% of students receive a degree in 4 years. Competition for jobs and the high cost of living and repaying of student loans has put additional demands on graduates, forcing them into low-paying internships or unrelated work and back home with parents. Some people think that our kids have it better than previous generations in terms of means and opportunity, but do they really?
Gratuitous Praise Or Constructive Criticism?
Lost In Translation
As with college students of years past, the new graduates who burst through the halls of learning will be pumped up with Utopian ideals and the will to take on the world. This generation has been praised from pre-school for the "good job!" These accolades for even the most mediocre effort stems from over-concern with building "self-confidence", something sorely lacking in many of the post-war Baby Boomers. Rewarding the best competitors is not unfair, but giving children a false sense of accomplishment is bad practice. It is far more important to offer constructive criticism, reward hard work and good character, and teach problem solving skills. It is about teaching a growth-mindset where kids embrace the belief that they can learn to overcome deficits with effort rather than being pegged by their situational shortcomings.
The Breakdown Of Values
One of the great gifts of this nation is the freedom of individuality. This country was built by non-conformists, and we still thrive under the laws created from their ideals. We citizens have always proudly stood together in spite of our differences and called ourselves Americans. We have been willing to work together in crisis to support and defend the U.S. as a whole, our communities at large, our neighborhoods, and our families. Our changing demographics have led to the breakdown of patriotism and long-standing institutions like our churches, social clubs, and neighborhood groups from which strong moral values have come. Even our family sit-down dinners have become more infrequent. There is greater interest in online social media than having real face to face conversation. When these conservative trends fall to the wayside, the elements of collective effort and mutual respect disappear, and that "individualism" becomes redefined as "me-ism."
Advances in technology have given us an instant gratification factor unknown in the past; however, the search for employment is quite the opposite. The unfortunate reality is that most graduates will find themselves in a sea of mediocrity with a glut of other high-achievers. Prospective employers will not be holding doors open, and our kids will have encountered that first unexpected pitfall. Now what?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports unemployment rates by education level. "As of the January 2017 report which contains numbers for December 2016, the unemployment rate for college graduates was only 2.5 percent. That means that only one out of every 40 college graduates is unemployed. This is half the unemployment rate of those with high school degrees and one-third the unemployment rate of those without a high school degree." Unfortunately, these jobs may be well beneath the educational level of the employee. Under-employment is a more significant problem. Many businesses want on the job experience in their respective fields which most recent grads don't have. Entry level positions often don't pay enough for today's rising housing market, yet it is important to gain experience in a chosen field rather than veer off course.
A college education is still a worthwhile investment; however, college grads should not expect to immediately settle into the perfect job. A greater likelihood is a slower climb on the ladder with eyes wide open for fresh opportunities, and multiple job changes.
Character and Motivation Count
Both character and motivation are crucial for real success. There are three common employment mistakes resulting from an imbalance of ethical priorities:
- Money Motivation > Work Ethic: This scenario might be poor job satisfaction, frequent employment changes, and no relationship building or accountability.
- Money Motivation < Work Ethic: This often means settling into a comfortable job for which one is over-qualified and never reaching one's full potential.
- Money Motivation and No Work Ethic: The most disturbing scenario is fueled by motivation only. This is the" Me Factor" without a moral compass. Simply put, this group will lie, cheat, and steal without reservation to satisfy greedy goals. No loyalty, no remorse. Unfortunately, it is becoming more prevalent.
Thomas A. Wright, a professor of business ethics at Kansas State University warns, "As business professors in an increasingly 'just show me the money' business school environment, we all share responsibility for this moral decline," Wright said. "Many citizens are increasingly seeing the potentially grave consequences of dishonest and fraudulent actions by our business and political leaders." Even more disturbing is the steady rate of depression and suicide among many gifted young people who struggle with the rejection, loneliness, and perceived failure which comes from the success=love equation.
The good news is that perseverance will pay off in the long run.This is the importance of the growth mindset. Kevin Scott, Co-Founder of the Addo Institute for Education, looks at it this way:“While graduates today are more likely to get jobs, they’re unlikely to get a job that they are qualified for or in their area of expertise.” Scott continues: “Because it’s such a buyer’s market for employers, they get graduates who will work for less money and for more hours.” Graduates need to put ego aside and be willing to advance in smaller steps while gaining on-the-job-training and building helpful networks.
Finding A Resolution
We parents, educators, and heads of government need to stop sugar-coating reality. There will always be conflict among men and nations, and the wolf is never far from the door. We need to look forward and adapt to the changes in our society. Families should encourage kids to build strong character through mentoring and volunteerism. Schools can't do it all. As part of the curriculum, class discussions should include the commonalities among cultures as well as the unique differences. If we truly value individualism as we say we do, then respecting, not bullying, those with different views should be our focus. Rewards should be given for real merit, fortitude, loyalty, and honor rather than political correctness. Our kids need to feel loved, accepted, and respected even in the face of disappointment and failure. They need encouragement and tools to succeed, not over-control, leniency, or false hopes.
Young people today are some of the most savvy ,passionate and determined we've had in generations. The future can be bright with the right guidance.
Questions & Answers
© 2011 Catherine Tally