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. Not all students learn in the same ways, so giving options to learn and do assignments through different mediums 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 group 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.
Due to overcrowding at colleges and the inability 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 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?
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. Have we adequately prepared our kids for what lies ahead?
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 judged for innate talents.
Each person here in the USA has the opportunity to succeed within a "free enterprise" system. Some of today's most successful people started from the bottom and moved up with the sheer determination to get out of poverty. Our government, with all good intentions, has made many of our poor even more dependent and less able to help themselves. Where is the incentive to work if basic needs are being met through continuous entitlement programs? What happened to the concern for building self-confidence? It's one thing to give a boost and another entirely to create dependency.
Our government has made huge strides with equal opportunity laws, and we see the result through the growing diversity in our workplaces.This functions very well when equally qualified people can compete fairly. Affirmative action is another thing altogether. Why, in today's world, do we still need to force diversity? Placing less than qualified people in jobs for the purpose of maintaining racial quotas is unnecessary and bad for morale. Often protected by unions, these employees need not be concerned about good work for job security. Motivated workers, on the other hand, eventually lose their enthusiasm to work hard when they see inept co-workers getting the same wages and benefits without threat of termination.
The breakdown of values: One of the other great gifts of this nation is the freedom of individuality. This country was built by non-conformists, and we still thrive within the laws outlined in the Bill of Rights. 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 messaging via snapchat than having real face to face conversation. When these conservative trends fall to the wayside, the elements of team-work 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: disillusionment. 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.
Character counts, and so does motivation: Both character and motivation are crucial for real success. This is where problem resolution and creative survival skills come into play. 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. If one has strong moral character but little motivation, the scenario might be settling into a comfortable job for which one is over-qualified and never reaching one's full potential. A more disturbing scenario, and the one that is becoming more prevalent today, 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. 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 longer run.This is the importance of the growth mindset. “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,” said Scott, whose company is called Addo Institute. “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 adapt to the changes in our society and find the time to build strong character through mentoring and volunteerism as part of curriculum and learn to seek commonalities. 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- not political correctness. Our kids need to feel loved, accepted, and respected even in the face of disappointment and failure. They need encouragement, guidance, and tools to succeed, not over-control, leniency, or false hopes.
This next generation has some of the most creative, techo-savvy, tolerant, well-informed, and socially connected individuals among its ranks. We are also on the edge of a new frontier of innovation to meet our changing needs. As a group, these kids are highly motivated to make a difference in the world. They notice. We need to be honest, compassionate, and empowering role models with the willingness to help grow their dreams.
© 2011 Catherine Tally