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 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 groups prepares our kids for the creative exchange of team projects. Classroom subjects should continue to encompass both academics, the arts, and topics of everyday life. The future workplace will require vocational and resolution skills as well as a grasp of cultural differences and sound ethics.
There is still a disparity between those who can advance through education 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 our world continues to change. It has also reduced the need for human interaction in many fields and widened the gap between highly skilled and unskilled labor.
Job seekers can no longer walk into businesses and ask for work. Applications are all done online, and there are no face-to-face interactions unless one attends a Job Fair or has advanced in the hiring process from the resume to the phone interview and on to the video chat.
Many employers today hire for part-time or the short term. This allows them to skirt paying benefits and gives them a tryout period with no commitment. Employers know that desperate graduates will grab the bait even though it is one step away from exploitation. It is a dirty game and one that chips away at the self-confidence that educators spent years building in their students. On the other hand, it can be a great opportunity for experience, training, and resume building.
If we prepare our kids for this likely situation, it will be less of a blow and more of an expectation.
Increasing Population Means 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, unrelated work, or 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 overconcern with building self-confidence, something sorely lacking in many of the postwar 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 offer problem solving skills. This will teach resilience. 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. The United States was founded by non-conformist colonists seeking religious freedom, 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 our country as a whole, our communities at large, our neighborhoods, and our families.
However, our changing demographics have led to the breakdown of long-standing institutions like our churches, social clubs, and community groups from which strong social connections have come. American patriotism is being replaced with elitism, neighbor interaction rarely goes beyond a friendly wave, and our family sit-down dinners have become more infrequent. There is greater interest in social media than face to face conversation and less desire for commitment. When these bonding 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?
According to he Bureau of Labor Statistics, " the more you learn, the more you earn. Median weekly earnings in 2018 for those with the highest levels of educational attainment—doctoral and professional degrees—were more than triple those with the lowest level, less than a high school diploma. And workers with at least a bachelor’s degree earned more than the $932 median weekly earnings for all workers." 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. This may mean supplementing a paying job with volunteer work or taking several part-time positions to build a resume.
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 necessary 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 politicians 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 keep moving forward and adapt to the changes in our world. Families should encourage their kids to mentor and volunteer.
As part of the school 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.
Ultimately, it is a parent's job to know what goes on in the lives of their kids. We are the ones to instill strong values, kindness, and accountability. It is not the responsibility of schools or lawmakers.
Take the recent case of the Pennsylvania teenager who took to snapchat with a foul-mouthed rant after not making the varsity cheerleading team. What should have been handled at home with discipline for bad behavior became a full-blown assault on free-speech rights and went to the Supreme Court! Her parents, instead of talking consequences, sued the school. Where is the accountability and what precedent does that set?
With all of the complaints today about the inconsiderate younger generations and the problems in our cities, many desire a return to 1950 Pleasantville. It is not sensible to go back because technology has opened up our world, and a nationalist view is counter-productive.
The media and the internet fuel our discontent, and there is a growing divide between political parties, ethnic groups, and the social classes. It is important that mentors set good examples and that parents carefully guide their kids through this treacherous societal minefield without becoming elitists themselves.
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.
© 2011 Catherine Tally
Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on May 13, 2015:
My pleasure, Cat.
Catherine Tally (author) from Los Angeles on May 12, 2015:
Thank you, Kristen. I appreciate the thoughtful comments and the vote up:)
Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on May 11, 2015:
Catherine, this was a great hub about high school graduates. It was well thought out and detailed with strong insight. Voted up!
Catherine Tally (author) from Los Angeles on March 13, 2011:
I am so glad that you have seen my point of view and can appreciate the thought behind it. I greatly appreciate your nice compliment and look forward to reading more of your insights.
Catherine Tally (author) from Los Angeles on March 08, 2011:
Thank you gajanis786 for your comments. I try to be
optimistic, but you've made some good points.
gajanis from Pakistan on March 05, 2011:
Well in my opinion despite all of the so called technology advantages and freedom of individuality and free enterprise system, I am very much doubtful if our youth is pretty ready to lead the next generation towards any betterment......because in my point of view they have probably taken all of these new era advantages for granted and seems to be more lethargic rather than more dedicated and hardworking compared to it's previous generation.....and above all they have miserably failed to utilize these so called freedom of individuality and freedom of speech to the best of the nation's benefits because they are not prepared to put any boundaries of ethics around themselves which can teach them what is right and what is wrong.....because in my view point freedom of individuality does not give any one just a license to do anything.....because as a nation there has to be boundaries drawn which is not visible at the moment and the consequences are just before everybody on daily basis.
Catherine Tally (author) from Los Angeles on March 03, 2011:
Thank you for your comment, Genna. I really appreciate your support!
Genna East from Massachusetts, USA on March 03, 2011:
"Character counts, and so does motivation. Both are crucial for real success. If our kids have good ethics but are motivated by money only, the scenario might be poor job satisfaction, frequent job changes, and no relationship building or accountability."
Excellent question, and hub! I have my doubts, but I hope that these doubts are overblown.