Teach to the strengths of each child for success Jan 23, 2006 10:36:46 GMT -5
Post by Moses on Jan 23, 2006 10:36:46 GMT -5
Greenberg: Teach to the strengths of each child for success
By Dan Greenberg/ Local Columnist
Friday, January 20, 2006 - Updated: 12:00 AM EST
Here’s a fairly straightforward quiz. Suppose you are a personnel director for an organization, and you are looking to fill three job openings: one for an information-technology assistant, one for a marketing copy writer, and one for a handyman.
Along comes a young applicant who is likable, bright-eyed, and full of energy. Instinctively, you feel he would make a good fit with your outfit. He tells you, "I love computers. I’ve been using them since I was a little kid. I learn new programs quickly. I am confident that I can learn to handle just about any computer-related job." You want to hire him. What do you say to him?
This is a multiple-choice quiz. Here are your options to choose from:
(1) You say, "You look promising for our IT job, but let’s find out first whether you can master the tasks outlined in our job description for a handyman. If you can, we’ll consider hiring you. If you can’t, we’ll wait until you learn how to be a handyman. Then we’ll offer you the IT job."
(2) You say the same thing as (A), except substitute the words "marketing copy writer" for "handyman" in (A).
(3) You say, "You look promising for out IT job, but let’s find out first whether you can master the tasks outlined in our job description for a handyman AND a marketing copy writer. If you can, we’ll consider hiring you. If you can’t, we’ll wait until you learn all those tasks. Then we’ll offer you the IT job."
(4) You say, "When can you start to work in our IT department?"
Which of the above did you choose?
That’s a no-brainer, isn’t it? Obviously, the answer is (4). I’ve never heard of anyone, in any company or organization, who would say (1), (2), or (3). In fact, a personnel director who said any one of those three would find himself looking for another job within the hour.
You’re thinking, "Why is Greenberg wasting my time with this nonsense? It’s obvious that you hire people for their strengths, since the things they are passionate about are the things they are most likely to pursue with energy, persistence, and excellence."
Well, it’s obvious to you, and it’s actually obvious to me. Welcome to the only place where it’s NOT obvious: the upside-down world of education!
A world in which people -- otherwise known as "students," but nevertheless qualifying as "people" -- are told, day in and day out, year in and year out, "Don’t pursue your passion. Don’t work to improve your strengths. Focus instead on all the things you would rather NOT learn.
Then, when you’re all grown up and have graduated from your 12+ years of schooling, you can start applying yourself to doing the things you love. (Unless you go to college, in which case you have to postpone honing your strengths for a few more years.)"
Just think about it. Virtually every child, at the age of four, is bright-eyed and eager to conquer the world. At that age, every child has their particular passions: blocks, dolls, computers, rocket ships, monsters, drawing, building sand castles, making friends -- the list is as varied and subtle as the number of children.
As they grow, their interests develop, deepen, broaden, and vary with time. Anyone who has observed children cannot fail to notice how focused they are, how committed to their activities, how determined and persevering. Indeed, most parents will agree that their hardest task is getting their children’s attention -- getting their children to abandon what they are doing in order, say, to come to dinner, or get ready to leave the house, or go to bed.
Children need no encouragement to pursue their interests. They do this on their own. They do not need to be motivated; they are born with the intense drive to engage in independent, self-directed activity. Above all, they are born with the over-arching desire to become effective adults. They want to be able eventually to be on their own, to get jobs, to drive cars, to have an active social life, and to live happy and meaningful lives.
They are born with the determination to achieve their goals whatever the obstacles they encounter along the way. The human species would not have survived otherwise.
Children -- indeed, all people -- who are free to develop their strengths and pursue their passions are the building blocks of a vigorous, effective society. Going back to the little quiz at the start of this column, the world of the 21st century is a society in which literally countless opportunities exist for gainful callings and for purposeful lives.
The most important characteristic of successful adults in this vibrant, ever-changing new world is passionate commitment to one’s pursuits. In the trades, in the arts, in the professions, in the world of entrepreneurs, those traits are absolutely essential to success. Even personnel directors in huge, multi-national corporations will tell you that, above all, they look for self-directed, confident employees who are not afraid to assume responsibility and who are committed to their work.
Tragically, our schools today do everything in their power to deflect children from pursuing their interests, and force them, instead, to devote time and energy to a host of activities and studies that are irrelevant to their ultimate callings. Instead of focusing on those areas in which each child is eager to work hard and to excel, they tell the child, "Work on this or that subject that is of no interest to you, that you will almost certainly never use in life."
It’s past time for schools to change course and devote themselves instead to creating an environment that supports children’s strengths and passions.